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How COVID-19 Changes Affect Training, Duty, Pay and Benefits

Coronavirus disease 2019 continues to bring travel restrictions and social distancing requirements to protect service members and their families from the virus, which creates new challenges to supporting missions.

The Department of Defense developed a risk-based flexible plan to guide leaders on how to protect the health and ensure the safety of service members and their families while continuing to support critical missions.

The following questions and answers are designed to provide leaders, commanders and service providers with information to help guide service members and their families in dealing with the changes resulting from COVID-19 in areas such as travel, duty, pay and benefits, and where to find the information they need to support the safety and continued readiness of the force.

Commanders have multiple ways to ensure the health and safety of their service members and families, including:

  • Designate an alternate place of duty, such as a member’s residence, unaccompanied government quarters or temporary lodging when ordered into restriction of movement for self-monitoring (as long as the alternate place is not an open-bay unaccompanied government quarters or rooms with shared bathrooms or kitchen facilities)
  • Consider the need for a service member to care for an immediate family member by designating the alternate place of duty as the member’s residence
  • Exercise the ability to prescribe remote work (inability to perform military duties by traditional telework should not be a barrier to assigning an alternate place of duty)
  • Direct service members to telework efficiently, ensuring access to IT systems and networks

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 instead of four (Jan. 1-April 30, 2021) as previously ruled.

Service members

The Internal Revenue Service 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 net available pay from each weekly, mid-month and end-of-month pay until the deferred taxes have been repaid in full (amounts withdrawn may vary by pay period)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 collect the remaining amount 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.

The following information does not apply to officers or to members (officers or enlisted) who are eligible for Per Diem Allowance for Isolation or Quarantine.

When commanders order service members on active duty into restriction of movement for self-monitoring, they may consider the following with regard to BAS payment:

  • Provide BAS without automatic deduction for service members who are not housed in government quarters and are not eating at a government appropriated fund dining facility/mess/galley (specifically meant for service members who, immediately prior to restriction of movement for self-monitoring, were subject to automatic deduction of BAS as a result of assignment to Essential Station Messing or assignment to a vessel)
  • Authorize BAS at a standard monthly rate for service members who do not reside in government quarters (unaccompanied or leased), are not receiving meals at dining facilities and who must consume meals from a commercial source
  • Authorize BAS-II rate (twice monthly rate) for service members who do not reside in government quarters (unaccompanied or leased) if their lodging during the period of restriction of movement for self-monitoring does not provide adequate food storage and preparation facilities
  • Authorize BAS at a standard monthly rate and provide meals from a government dining facility without charge (in exception to policy when circumstances due to restriction of movement for self-monitoring require it) for service members who do not reside in government quarters (unaccompanied or leased) and do not receive meals from a government facility

Current housing allowance guidelines will cover most situations that affect service members due to COVID-19. However, in unique circumstances, commanders may do the following:

  • Continue BAH and OHA for a member without dependents who is ordered into restriction of movement for 14 days of self-monitoring in government quarters (this will be considered temporary, as in not their permanent residence)
  • Grant the Department of Defense’s newly authorized Hardship Duty Pay-Restriction of Movement in response to the COVID-19 emergency. If you, or someone in the chain of command, order a service member to self-monitor somewhere other than their home and they are not on official travel orders, they may be eligible for this pay.

This HDP-ROM pay allows the eligible service member to receive up to $100 per day and $1,500 a month to compensate for the hardship of having to pay out of pocket for lodging while in isolation. The service member must be paying to stay somewhere other than their own residence, a government lodging facility or in a hotel that is paid for by the government. This hardship pay is intended to defray the hardship incurred when service members have to pay out of their own pocket, without reimbursement, for lodging due to orders from their command to self-isolate.

  • Grant Family Separation Housing Allowance for service members who, as a result of the DOD’s or military department’s response to COVID-19 conditions, the government-funded travel of dependents was not authorized for a member’s permanent change of station and they do not live near the new permanent duty station (pay the FSH at the BAH without dependents rate for member’s pay grade based on the location of the new PDS)

Current FSA policies cover most situations that may affect service members with dependents. However, some members may receive FSA if they were affected by the following actions:

  1. The Authorized Departure and Stop Movement of dependents from/to the area of the American Consulate General in Milan, Italy, as described in the Civilian Official Performing the Duties of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness memorandum, “In-Country Authorized Departure — Consulate General” of March 6, 2020
  2. The temporary travel restrictions directed by the Secretary of Defense memorandum, “Travel Restriction for DOD components in Response to Coronavirus Disease 2019,” of March 11, 2020
  3. The temporary travel restrictions directed by the Deputy Secretary of Defense memorandum, “Stop Movement of All Domestic Travel for DOD Components in Response to Coronavirus Disease 2019,” of March 13, 2020

In certain circumstances caused by the matching numbered actions above, commanders may do the following:

  1. Authorize FSA-restricted benefits for members whose dependents either travel to a safe haven that is not at or near the permanent duty station, or are not in the area of the PDS and no longer are authorized concurrent government-funded travel to join the member at the PDS (begin entitlement on the date the dependents depart the PDS area or the date government-funded concurrent travel of dependents was suspended)
  2. Authorize FSA-R benefits for members who are separated from dependents due to suspension of government-funded concurrent travel of dependents from one PDS to another in the contiguous United States (eligibility begins on the date of suspended travel)
  3. Authorize FSA-temporary benefits for members separated from their dependents as a result of travel being halted at the location of a short-term temporary duty assignment of fewer than 30 days (including TDY locations in conjunction with a PCS), provided the length of the period during which a member is held over at the TDY location combined with the period of the original TDY exceeds 30 consecutive days (entitlement is authorized for the entire combined period)

Even if members are eligible for both FSA-R and FSA-T, they may not receive both allowances for the same period. Members separated because of leave travel being stopped, delayed or cancelled are not entitled to FSA.

In all cases, if the government provides lodging in kind or meals in kind, per diem for lodging or meal expense is not authorized. However, PCS travel interruptions allow commanders to authorize per diem or PCS allowances to members and dependents in the following situations:

  • Ordered into a period of self-monitoring — may receive per diem after departing or detaching the old permanent duty station when performing PCS
  • Delayed at a port of entry — may receive per diem while awaiting transportation before proceeding to the new PDS
  • Ordered to remain in place, to temporarily return to the old PDS or to move to a different location — may receive per diem while awaiting transportation to new PDS
  • Ordered to permanently return to old PDS, whose orders changed to direct movement to a different PDS — after they detached or departed the old PDS may receive PCS allowances
  • Ordered to self-monitoring upon arrival at new PDS — may receive per diem allowance for lodging and meals when they are not provided in kind (this per diem will terminate once self-monitoring, isolation or quarantine are complete)

Other ways travel restrictions may impact your service members and their families during PCS and their eligibility for BAH include:

  • If a service member has moved but their dependents had to stay behind, the service member may be eligible for BAH with-dependents at the old location and Family Separation Housing allowance at the new location
  • If the service member’s dependents have moved but the service member had to stay behind, they are entitled to BAH at the old or new duty station, whichever is more equitable, but not both
  • If the service member and dependents have not yet started their PCS, they will only be eligible for BAH at the old location

If the travel restrictions are affecting your service members and their families in one of the ways listed above, encourage them to do the following:

  • Contact their personnel or housing office and the gaining command to see if there are any options for temporary lodging
  • Check with their housing provider to see if their lease or purchase agreement can be delayed
  • Check to see if they may be exempt from the travel restrictions or if they could receive a hardship exception to proceed with the PCS
  • Ask their legal office if they have options under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act and the rental/purchase contract’s military clause, which may permit them to cancel the contract

Keep up with ongoing changes to travel and housing policy due to COVID-19 at the Defense Travel and Housing Policy website.

In all cases, if the government provides lodging in kind or meals in kind, per diem for lodging or meal expense is not authorized. However, TDY travel interruptions allow commanders to authorize per diem or TDY allowances to members and dependents in the following situations:

  • Ordered into restriction of movement for self-monitoring at a TDY location — may receive TDY travel and transportation allowances (member’s TDY orders may be changed to extend the assignment to cover the period of self-monitoring)
  • Ordered into restriction of movement for self-monitoring when returning to permanent duty station from TDY travel or deployment — may be authorized extension of standard travel and transportation allowances (TDY orders may be changed to extend assignment for duration of self-monitoring)
  • Ordered to return to permanent duty station after departed to the TDY location — may be authorized standard travel and transportation allowances during travel to return to PDS
  • Ordered to reroute to TDY while returning to PDS from TDY (including returning from deployments) — may be authorized to receive TDY allowances

Commanders can authorize TLE or TLA in the following COVID-19 circumstances:

  • If service member arrives at new permanent duty station and is ordered into restriction of movement for self-monitoring (and if dependents live with member and participate in self-monitoring) — the TLE or TLA may be deferred until the expiration of the self-monitoring period and payment of the Per Diem Allowance for Isolation or Quarantine ends
  • If service member arrives at new PDS and is ordered into restriction of movement for self-monitoring, but resides separately from dependents, payment of TLE or TLA may be paid for the dependents at the same time as any Per Diem Allowance During Isolation, Awaiting Transportation and Government-Funded Leave paid to members according to current policies
  • If members or dependents have been receiving TLE or TLA at the old PDS, but are unable to begin PCS travel due to temporary travel restrictions — consider these members and dependents in “awaiting transportation” status (minimize TLE/TLA authorizations and convert to per diem entitlements to preserve members/dependents TLE/TLA eligibility for future use after travel restrictions are lifted)

The Personal Property Office should suspend or reschedule any Household Goods and Unaccompanied Baggage shipments that have been ordered from a moving company, but shipment hasn’t started (no pack out or pick up from residence). This applies to all shipments from all locations. Commanders, review the following notes about exceptions:

  • Provide documentation of a DOD Component-issued exception to policy to the Personal Property Office for its records
  • Note that shipments already submitted for processing (but waiting on moving company to be awarded the shipment for a future date), pending an exception-to-policy, will move per the revisions to DOD’s Stop Movement Order
  • Seek an exception-to-policy prior to dropping off vehicle at a Vehicle Processing Center for shipment and provide the VPC with the exception-to-policy memo
  • Coordinate with the Personal Property Office for continued HHG and UB shipment delivers at destinations (PPO should coordinate with moving company to be aware of any changes to installation access procedures before scheduling “on-installation” deliveries

Hardship Duty Pay-Restriction of Movement helps ease the costs of additional lodging required during the self-monitoring period. It is a taxable payment to the service member of $100 per day (not to exceed $1,500 per month).

Only service members currently on permanent change of station or temporary duty status (away from their permanent duty station) are eligible for reimbursement of lodging and per diem. Service members at their PDS who are not on travel status (including those returned from deployment or TDY) may be eligible for HDP-ROM if they meet the following conditions:

  • If commander orders member into restriction of movement for self-monitor as a result of COVID-19
  • If commander determines government lodging-in-kind is not available
  • If member must pay for additional lodging, separate from the lodging the member occupied before the commander ordered the self-monitoring
  • If the cost of lodging is not reimbursed or subsidized by the Department of Defense or other entity

Commanders ordering restriction of movement for self-monitoring should provide members with lodging in kind first where possible. When that is not possible, the service member will pay out of pocket for lodging and food, but the service member is eligible for the HDP-ROM, which should cover most or all of the cost. The member is not required to return any excess, but is also not authorized any supplemental payment to cover if the location costs more than the HDP-ROM.

The travel restrictions due to COVID-19 have prevented many service members from taking leave. Because leave is vital to the health and welfare of service members, active duty service members are authorized to accumulate in excess of 60 days annual leave but no more than 120 days between March 11 and Sept. 30, 2020. Service members may retain unused leave until Sept. 30, 2023. This authorization does not apply to service members otherwise authorized to accumulate in excess of 60 days as of Oct. 1, 2020.

Commanders should be liberal with leave and liberty policies and consistent with the Department of Defense Force Health Protection guidance for service members and for members who care for family members. Commanders may authorize the following things:

  • Leave for illness — order members to seek medical attention for themselves and to stay home to recover
  • Leave for exposure to COVID-19 — follow normal convalescent leave guidance
  • Leave for members who are suspected to have been exposed to COVID-19 — follow Department of Defense Force Health Protection guidance; apply liberal leave and liberty policies; assign an alternate place of duty or remote work
  • Leave for members who provide care for a close family member who is required to self-monitor — apply liberal leave and liberty policies; assign an alternate place of duty or remote work
  • Other situations created by extended effects of COVID-19 on military members or family members — apply liberal leave and liberty policies; assign an alternate place of duty or remote work
  • Leave that is not related to illness, potential exposure, or extended effects of COVID-19 — authorize liberty and other leave through normal unit procedures

Commanders may grant advance leave with pay and allowances if service members exhaust annual leave.

Reserve Component-specifics:

Commanders have the authority and flexibility to schedule or reschedule AT and IDT (drill or unit assembly), including:

  • Authorize absence
  • Authorize equivalent training
  • Adjust or reschedule IDT
  • Reschedule AT
  • Reschedule IDT at alternative places of duty for no less than four hours
  • Authorize telework — follow current telework policies
  • Provide as much notice as possible for future rescheduled IDT and AT dates

Commanders may use EBDL to fulfill common training requirements instead of drill at the primary place of duty. Commanders may also grant exceptions for satisfactory participation for Reserve Component members unable to perform EBDL.

RC members on active duty or FTNGD must follow all Department of Defense travel and force health protection guidance. If a commander orders restriction of movement for self-monitoring, they may issue a voluntary order, with the member’s consent, to retain the RC member on active duty or FTNGD. For National Guard, a governor’s consent for certain voluntary orders may be required.

Commanders will ensure that Reserve Component members scheduled for release from active duty or FTNGD receive consideration for restriction of movement for self-monitoring prior to release. If the service member scheduled for release is affected by a stop movement order or travel restrictions, the commander may:

  • Extend current orders for RC members on involuntary order authority (where extension of orders would not violate any mobilization limits by law)
  • Reissue voluntary order for those members on involuntary order authority — may only reissue with member’s consent (where extension of orders would violate any mobilization limits by law)
  • Extend current orders for RC members on voluntary order authority — may only issue or extend with member’s consent(governor’s consent for certain voluntary orders may be required for members of the National Guard)

COVID-19 restrictions may prevent service members from performing specific duties tied to their special or incentive pays such as Hazardous Duty Incentive Pay or Aviation Incentive Pay. For service members already eligible to receive performance-based special or incentive pays, the assistant secretary of defense for Manpower and Reserve Affairs recently announced that authorized service secretaries can waive the performance requirements for specific duties and allow members to continue to receive their pay for up to 12 months because of COVID-19 restrictions. The service member should speak to their chain of command to find out if they qualify for this waiver.

Existing policy ensures RC members with SGLI, Traumatic SGLI and Family SGLI coverage will remain in good standing even due to nonpayment of premiums when RC members do not receive active or inactive duty pay (where payments are typically deducted). With previously scheduled ADT, IDT or annual trainings being cancelled, suspended, deferred or excused because of COVID-19 restrictions, RC members should expect a lump sum to be deducted from their pay, for premiums previously missed, once IDT, ADT and AT resumes and pay begins again.

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

National Guard Resources

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