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Coronavirus Disease 2019 Questions and Answers

Current as of June 10, 2021


Below are some of the questions you might have about the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic.

Force Health Protection

Limited testing of asymptomatic service members is taking place. Specifically, 10% of those who live in congregate settings, 10% of those who work in health care and 1% of others will be tested. Service members preparing to deploy and those starting training will be tested as well. Additionally, asymptomatic service members involved in critical national capabilities will be tested, followed by engaged fielded forces, then forward deployed and redeployed forces as testing capacity increases.

For more information, see the memorandum, Force Health Protection Guidance (Supplement 11) – Department of Defense Guidance for Coronavirus Disease 2019 Surveillance and Screening with Testing.

Review the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention information for guidance on what to watch out for if you are feeling sick.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has guidance on protecting yourself and others. It offers advice on everything from hand washing to house cleaning and avoiding contact if you must leave the house.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has answers to a range of questions related to testing.

Speak with your supervisor if you or a family member becomes sick and you run out of sick leave. You may receive an advance of up to 30 days of sick leave for yourself, and up to 13 days of sick leave to care for a family member who is ill.

Learn more in the memorandum, Military Personnel Guidance for Department of Defense Components in Responding to Coronavirus Disease 2019.

Visit COVID-19 Accessible Resources to find accessible versions of the Centers for Disease Control’s COVID-19 guidance.

The CDC recommends wearing non-medical disposable masks or masks made with breathable or tightly-woven fabric. Masks should have two or three layers and include an inner pocket for a filter.

You must wear a mask while in common areas, shared workspaces and outdoor shared spaces on an installation.

You will need to practice social distancing whenever you are with others outside your immediate household, both indoors and outdoors.

You may remove your mask:

  • While working from home
  • While alone in an office with floor-to-ceiling walls and a closed door
  • For brief periods of time while eating and drinking

You may be required to lower your mask for identification or security purposes.

Masks may be lowered or removed to reasonably accommodate an individual with a disability. Department of Defense component heads may grant additional exceptions for service members and families.

Travel

The Department of Defense and other governmental agencies issue regular updates about traveling during COVID-19. Get the latest about travel restrictions at the installation level at the DOD’s COVID-19 Travel Restrictions Installation Status Update. Look up state regulations at the Centers for Disease Control’s health department website, which links to state health departments nationwide. For information about COVID-19 restrictions in other countries, visit the Department of State’s COVID-19 Specific Information page.

You may travel outside your local area with authorization from your unit commander or equivalent.

Financial, Pay & Benefits

Refer to the article “Obtaining and Renewing Military ID and Common Access Cards During COVID-19” on Military OneSource. In addition, the Department of Defense provides a wealth of information at CAC.mil/coronavirus.

Military OneSource offers free financial counseling to service members and their families on issues such as budgeting, money management and debt reduction.

If impacted by COVID-19, there are several things you can do to make sure you continue to receive your medication.

  • Call your military pharmacy to see if they can transfer your prescription to home delivery.
  • Visit the Express Scripts website at https://militaryrx.express-scripts.com/home-delivery or call 877-363-1303, 24/7 to switch your prescription to home delivery. This transfer will require a new prescription from your doctor.
  • Call your retail network pharmacy and ask them to call your military pharmacy to transfer your medication, or call your provider for a new prescription. You can find a retail network pharmacy at https://militaryrx.express-scripts.com/find-pharmacy.
  • If you don’t have any refills left, call your provider to send a new prescription to home delivery or your retail network pharmacy.

Review the “Making the Most of Your TRICARE Pharmacy Benefits” webinar and get an overview of benefits, drug categories and costs, options and even a COVID-19 update.

To provide relief during the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic, a presidential memorandum was issued on Aug. 8, 2020, and guidance followed by the Internal Revenue Service on Aug. 28, 2020, to temporarily defer Social Security (Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance), seen on the Army, Air Force and Navy service members’ Leave and Earnings Statement as “FICA-SOC SECURITY” tax withholdings. The Social Security tax is labeled as “Social Security” on the LES for the Marine Corps. For civilians, the OASDI deduction is found on the LES under the deductions tab/section.

Can anyone opt out?

No. The Office of Management and Budget directed all executive branch agencies to implement the tax deferral. No payroll providers, departments/agencies or service members will be able to opt in/opt out of the deferral.

Will military members be required to pay back the deferred taxes?

Yes. Current IRS guidance indicates that the payment of the deferred taxes is postponed until Jan. 1, 2021. The deferred Social Security taxes not withheld from wages during 2020 will be collected from wages paid from Jan. 1-Dec. 31, 2021.

When will the payroll tax deferral begin?

The deferral of the withholding of the Social Security tax for service members will be effective for midmonth as of September. For civilians, the deferral is effective for the pay period ending, Sept. 12, 2020. For nonappropriated funds, under the alternate and Europe cycle, the deferral is effective for the pay period ending Sept. 9, 2020, or Sept. 16, 2020, for the regular cycle.

Is there an option to put money aside in my paycheck to offset the deferred taxes?

Military members can contact the  personal financial management staff at their installation, the Military and Family Support Center or Military OneSource to discuss options to help prepare to pay back the deferred taxes. For civilians with concerns regarding repayment of the deferred OASDI, please consult with an Employee Assistance Program financial counselor or a private financial adviser.

Can the deferred Social Security tax liability be waived?

Only Congress has the authority to forgive taxes. Deferral of the Social Security tax only postpones when the taxes are due.

Will the deferred taxes be forgiven by Congress?

Congress has not made a determination on forgiving the tax deferral debt. Under current IRS guidance, service members and civilian employees should plan on repaying the deferred taxes beginning Jan. 1, 2021.

When do I owe the 2020 deferred taxes?

The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, extended the period for collecting deferred 2020 Social Security taxes. The collection will now span from Jan. 1-Dec. 31, 2021. This spreads the repayment across 12 months of pay instead of four (Jan. 1-April 30, 2021) as previously ruled.

Service members

The IRS will collect the 2020 deferred Social Security taxes from:

  • Active-duty service members in 24 installments (mid-month and end-of-month) between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2021
  • Reservists and guardsmen performing intermittent duty in 2021 in amounts of 2% of the net amount available from each weekly, mid-month and end-of-month pay until the deferred taxes have been repaid in full (amounts withdrawn may vary per pay period)

Access your myPay Leave and Earnings Statement to view the monthly collection amount and remaining balance of deferred Social Security taxes beginning in January 2021.

Civilian employees

The IRS will collect the 2020 deferred Social Security taxes in 24 installments during the Jan. 16-Dec. 4, 2021, pay periods. Beginning in January 2021, access your myPay LES to view the 2020 deferred tax repayment amount and the remaining balance.

If you retire or separate before the deferred Social Security tax is collected in full, the IRS will deduct the remaining repayment from your final paycheck or you will receive a debt letter with instructions for repayment.

For more information on the 2020 tax deferment, see the Background section of the Social Security Payroll Tax Deferral page on the Defense Finance and Accounting Service website.

Service members and families who have been affected financially as a result of travel restrictions, closures and other events from COVID-19 can check with their service relief organization to see if emergency help is available.

Review the information in the article Learn the Warning Signs of ‘Military Scams’ to protect yourself and your family. Remember, there are always people looking to take advantage of a crisis to harm others — be vigilant.

Health & Wellness

Military OneSource has many resources to help you boost your emotional wellness during stressful times. For starters:

While Military OneSource does not provide health care services, it provides resources that can help you maintain a healthy lifestyle. This page provides access to self-care mobile apps developed within the Department of Defense, Veteran Affairs and other partners. All the apps are free.

Ask for help if you or your family need it; Military OneSource confidential, non-medical counselors are here for you. If you or a family member are having suicidal thoughts, call the Military Crisis line at 800-273-8255, press 1; text to 838255; or start a confidential chat.

Safeguarding your mental health and well-being is just as important as using the right tools for the job. You can’t function well without them. Practice self-care with these three steps:

  • Recognize the signs of burnout: anxiety, irritability, disengagement, low mood and exhaustion.
  • Take a break: Even 10 minutes to yourself can help you recharge. Use the time to do something that lifts your spirits. Take a brisk walk, practice deep breathing, check out the free digital health tools below. If you tend to lose track of time when you’re busy, set a reminder on your phone or wearable device.
  • Help create a positive environment. We’re all in this together, both at work and at home. It’s important to lift each other up. Let your coworkers and family know you appreciate them. Be generous with praise, notice their accomplishments and be helpful and kind.

This research-based broaden and build theory can help your mind and body shift from the fight-or-flight response to a problem-solving mode. The theory states that positive emotions help to calm us so we can think more clearly and creatively.

Request adaptive equipment for your home office from the Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program if you have limitations, such as vision loss, hearing loss, memory loss or a physical condition, like arthritis or carpal tunnel syndrome. In many instances, equipment can ship directly to your home and keep you working efficiently and safely.

Parenting & Family Life

Social distancing and self-quarantine may not be safe for everyone – especially for individuals in unhealthy or abusive relationships. If you are seeking support for domestic abuse but unsure about next steps, contact your installation’s Family Advocacy Program victim advocate, who can help you identify options for safety even while isolated at home. You can also chat online or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline, 24/7. If you or someone else is in immediate danger, call 911 or your installation law enforcement. To learn more, see the article When Home Isn’t Safe: Tips for Victims of Domestic Abuse.

  • Come up with a plan to deal with the new normal created by the pandemic.
  • Give each other space, which could be going to a different room or maybe just wearing earbuds or headphones.
  • Practice good communication, which starts with setting aside a time to talk when you aren’t too stressed.
  • Check in with each other by video or phone if you are separated because of the pandemic.
  • Find time to be active by building physical activity into your day. Or via a personal health and wellness coach or even a mobile coach.
  • Take time to breathe, and remember why you and your partner love each other.

It’s important to talk to children about COVID-19, because even if they aren’t saying anything, they may have questions and concerns they don’t know how to put into words. Go to DoD Education Activity’s COVID-19 page to see their tips (in the PDF at the bottom of the page) for “How to Talk to Your Kids About the Coronavirus” in an age-appropriate manner.

Just because your children are stuck at home doesn’t mean their educational needs have to be interrupted. Find what you need in this article, Take Advantage of Online Learning Resources While Schools Are Closed.

Having routines is important to help both children and adults handle daily challenges and continue to thrive. Here are some things to consider.

MilParents can tap into these online parenting resources:

  • Thrive is a free online parenting program developed by the Department of Defense with Penn State University. It provides research-based best parenting practices for raising healthy, resilient children from birth to age 18.
  • ZERO TO THREE is designed to support parents in order to ensure that all babies and toddlers have a strong start in life. ZERO TO THREE’s Babies on the Homefront app provides ideas for military and veteran parents to stay connected, no matter where their work takes them.
  • Sesame Street for Military Families offers a variety of products designed for young military children. Their website offers videos on topics like deployment, homecoming, relocation, self-expression and more.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website offers a wealth of information, as well as a COVID-19 Parental Resources Kit. The Department of Defense Educational Activity website also provides an extensive list of Parent Resources.

There are a variety of small things that can add up to keeping everyone engaged, including:

  • Create a daily schedule for each child with hourly activities, and post it somewhere visible like the refrigerator. Make sure to include scheduled family activities.
  • Engage your children in household chores. Toddlers can clean up their toys. Older children can set and clear the table for meals. Teens can be responsible for taking care of younger siblings. Everyone can help fold laundry and plan and prepare meals.
  • Encourage tweens and teens to reach out to their friends. Challenge them to learn about the virus, or research positive things that have resulted around the world from people staying inside. They could also suggest creative ideas for socializing from a safe distance.
  • Work together as a team. Include the whole family in brainstorming ideas for managing chores and planning activities, and try to keep things as positive as possible. Make a list of fun things to do, post it where everyone can add to it, and decide what to add to your daily schedules. For more ideas, check out resources from the Morale, Welfare and Recreation Digital Library.
  • Be flexible. It might be helpful to let go of some of your normal expectations for family life. For instance, if you don’t usually allow screen time on school nights, you might allow exceptions as long as everyone understands that the rules return once life returns to normal.

Relocation/Deployment

Yes. The Department of Defense has safety measures in place. These include requiring customers and movers to wear face coverings and take other precautions. Your moving company will verify in writing that the movers coming to your home have been screened for illness. Learn more about the DOD’s commitment to protecting your health and safety during moves.

Yes. All service members deploying outside the United States or redeploying will be screened for COVID-19 and tested, if available and appropriate. Service members must undergo a mandatory 14-day restriction of movement before deploying. Redeploying service members may undergo a 14-day ROM if warranted by a risk-based determination. See Force Health Protection Guidance (Supplement 9) – Department of Defense Guidance for Deployment and Redeployment of Individuals and Units during the Novel Coronavirus Disease 2019 Pandemic for details.

Military Installations

COVID-19 closing:

Stay up to date on all the latest information on COVID-19. For updates for the military community regarding the virus that causes COVID-19, view the following sites:

Installation Program Directory

Find programs and services at your local installation.