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Service Members’ Pay, Benefits, Training and Duty During COVID-19

Current as of Oct. 6, 2021


Conditions are returning toward normal when it comes to how service members are being affected by coronavirus disease 2019. The secretary of defense signed a memorandum in March 2021 that outlines current conditions for personnel movement and unrestricted travel. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to present risk to DOD service members, civilian employees and families. Therefore the department will continue to implement a conditions-based approach to personnel movement and travel, both domestically and overseas.

Conditions for unrestricted travel now rest on installation-level data regarding conditions in and surrounding DOD installations, facilities, and locations. The secretaries of the military departments, commanders of the combatant commands, and the director of administration and management will continuously assess each DOD installation, facility, or location for the feasibility of lifting travel restrictions. The status of travel restrictions will be posted weekly on Defense.gov and MilitaryOneSource.mil.

Review the sections below that ask the questions to which you may still be seeking answers.

How does COVID-19 affect Hardship Duty Pay-Restriction of Movement?

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 permanent duty station who are not on travel status (including those returned from deployment or temporary duty travel) may be eligible for HDP-ROM if they meet the following conditions:

  • If a commander orders a member into restriction of movement for self-monitoring as a result of COVID-19
  • If a commander determines government lodging-in-kind is not available
  • If a 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 whenever possible. When not possible, the service member will pay out of pocket for lodging and food, but is eligible for the HDP-ROM, which should cover most or all of the cost. The member is not required to return any excess pay, but is also not authorized to receive any supplemental payment if the costs exceed the HDP-ROM. The service member must be paying to stay somewhere other than their own residence, a government lodging facility or a hotel that is paid for by the government.

Will I still receive my special and incentive pay(s) for Hazardous Duty (Dive, Demolition, etc.) if I’m not able to meet the minimum performance requirements for the pay(s)?

Yes. As long as you are normally eligible for the special and incentive pay(s) and your ability to perform your special duties for that pay was interrupted because of COVID-19-related issues, your command can provide a waiver so you can continue to receive pay without performing the specific duties. Contact your chain of command to find out if you qualify for a waiver and whether you need to take action to obtain one.

How does COVID-19 affect Basic Allowance for Housing and Overseas Housing Allowance?

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 DOD’s newly authorized HDP-ROM 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, with a maximum of $1,500 per 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 a hotel that is paid for by the government. This compensation 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 the member’s pay grade based on the location of the new PDS)

How does COVID-19 affect Basic Allowance for Subsistence?

The following information does not apply to officers or 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

I was living off base and receiving Basic Allowance Subsistence without a deduction for meals. Now, because of COVID-19, I’ve been ordered to move on base, stay in government quarters and eat my meals at the government dining facility. Will I lose my BAS? Are they going to start deducting for meals from my allowance?

No and no. Because of the unique circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, service members (both officers and enlisted) housed in government quarters and subsisted through government-provided meals who are not entitled to the meals portion of a per diem are to receive free meals, and to continue to receive their BAS (without deduction). Contact your chain of command to find out more about how your service is implementing this new authority.

How does COVID-19 affect permanent change of station travel and transportation allowances (per diem)? How does it affect my eligibility for Basic Allowance for Housing entitlements?

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 if they are:

  • Ordered into a period of self-monitoring — Members/dependents may receive per diem after departing or detaching the old permanent duty station when performing PCS
  • Delayed at a port of entry — Members/dependents 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 — Members/dependents 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 — Members/dependents may receive PCS allowances after they have detached from or departed the old PDS
  • Ordered to self-monitor upon arrival at a new PDS — Members/dependents may receive a 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)

Travel restrictions may impact your PCS and your eligibility for BAH in one of the following ways:

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

If the travel restrictions are affecting you and your family in one of the ways listed above, you may do the following:

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

You may also keep up with ongoing changes to travel and housing policy resulting from COVID-19 at the Defense Travel and Housing Policy website.

How does COVID-19 affect Family Separation Allowance?

Current Family Separation Allowance 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 PDS, 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.

How does COVID-19 affect TDY Travel and Transportation Allowances (Per Diem)?

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 if they are:

  • Ordered into restriction of movement for self-monitoring at a TDY location — Members/dependents 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 PDS from TDY travel or deployment — Members/dependents  may be authorized to receive an extension of standard travel and transportation allowances (TDY orders may be changed to extend assignment for duration of self-monitoring)
  • Ordered to return to PDS after departed to the TDY location — Members/dependents may be authorized to receive 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) — Members/dependents may be authorized to receive TDY allowances

How does COVID-19 affect leave?

Leave for DOD service members is exempt from current travel restrictions. Leave outside the local area will be approved at a level no lower than the unit commander or equivalent. Commanders will follow the procedures in Force Health Protections Guidance (Supplement 14) Department of Defense Guidance for Personnel Traveling During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 Pandemic, December 29, 2020.

I have full-time Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance coverage because I am scheduled to drill at least 12 times a year, but I am unable to drill because of the pandemic. Will I lose my SGLI coverage?

No. Under existing policy, Reserve Component members will not lose their SGLI, Traumatic SGLI, or Family SGLI coverage if they are unable to drill or perform annual training due to COVID-19 and, therefore, didn’t pay their premiums from their inactive or active-duty pay. Similar to members whose drills are excused, rescheduled or grouped together in some months throughout the year, your coverage will continue even in months where you did not earn pay. You should expect that any missed premiums will be deducted in a lump sum once you return to a pay status (including being paid for drills you perform at an alternate duty site or via telework).

Can I change my SGLI coverages without going to my drill site or support office?

Yes. If you are a service member with full-time coverage, you can use the SGLI Online Enrollment System to manage your coverage and beneficiaries from any computer.

I’m preparing to separate from service and apply for Veterans’ Group Life Insurance. But the pandemic has made it difficult for me to see a doctor for a health review. Will there be an application extension?

Yes. The Department of Veterans Affairs has extended the deadline for applications received between June 11, 2020, and June 11, 2021, by 90 days. The VA recognizes that COVID-19 has hurt some veterans financially and can make it difficult to see a doctor and obtain medical records to establish eligibility for VGLI. Visit the VA’s Veterans’ Group Life Insurance page for more information.

How does COVID-19 affect Temporary Living Expense and Temporary Lodging Allowance?

Commanders can authorize Temporary Living Expense or Temporary Lodging Allowance in the following COVID-19 circumstances:

  • If a service member arrives at a new PDS and is ordered into restriction of movement for self-monitoring (and if dependents live with the 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 a service member arrives at a new PDS and is ordered into restriction of movement for self-monitoring, but resides separately from his or her dependents, 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)

How does COVID-19 affect Personal Property Shipments?

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 PPO for continued HHG and UB shipment deliveries at destinations (PPO should coordinate with moving company to be aware of any changes to installation access procedures before scheduling “on-installation” deliveries)

The following types of travel are exempt from travel restrictions as per the March 15, 2021 memorandum:

  • Global force management activities
  • Uniformed personnel recruiting and accessions activities
  • Basic training
  • Advanced military individual training
  • Follow-on travel to first duty station
  • Travel to and from professional military education programs
  • Travel by service members pending retirement or separation and for transition leave
  • Travel authorized by U.S. Transportation Command

What kind of tasking can be performed at an alternate place of duty?

Commanders determine what types of tasking are acceptable. Examples include preparing for unit training or accomplishing unit administrative tasks. Most tasks requiring access to military hardware will not be appropriate.

Where can I find telework guidance?

Refer to your specific service and command guidance for further information.

How do I access Common Access Card-enabled websites from an alternate place of duty?

Consult your service and command for available remote access equipment and remote connection options.

Will Inactive Duty Training at an alternate place of duty, including telework, be authorized after COVID-19?

The department is considering incorporating this event-specific exception to policy into an update of DODI 1215.06, “Uniform Reserve, Training and Retirement Categories for the Reserve Component.”

What if my commander determines I’m not eligible to perform Inactive Duty Trainings at an alternate place of duty or telework?

It is at a commander’s discretion and flexibility to schedule or reschedule IDTs. Such flexibility includes authorizing absences, authorizing equivalent training or adjusting/rescheduling IDT.

Safeguarding Your Security Clearance During COVID-19

Financial difficulties due to the pandemic should not affect your security clearance.

Contact Military OneSource at 800-342-9647 for questions, referrals or helpful resources. Stay up to date on all the latest information on COVID-19. For DOD updates for the military community regarding the virus that causes COVID-19, view the following sites:

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