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Military Leave: What It Is and How It Works

Current as of April 20, 2020

As part of the military pay and benefits package, military service members earn 30 days of paid leave per year. You start at zero and for every month of military service, 2.5 days of leave get added to your leave account. It doesn’t stop, but the most you can carry over from one fiscal year to the next fiscal year is 60 days, except in certain, very limited situations where you can carry over more.

Reserve component members, including National Guard, also accrue leave at the rate of 2.5 days for each month that they are on active duty order. Reserve components have some special rules for how and when they can use of their leave.

Service members are expected to use leave for any workday that they will not be available for work, as required by their command. They are also are expected to use leave for any day that they leave the vicinity of their duty station, as defined by their command.

COVID-19 special leave accrual update

The Department of Defense recognizes that the COVID-19 national emergency has significantly limited service members’ ability to take leave. The department also recognizes that leave is vital to health and welfare. That’s why Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Matthew Donovan signed a department-wide authorization on April 16, 2020, for service members to accrue and retain an additional leave balance of up to 120 days. Members performing active service from March 11, 2020, through Sept. 30, 2020, can accrue leave up to 120 days and retain unused leave until Sept. 30, 2023.

When can you take leave

Service members may request leave at any time. Approval will be at the discretion of the command, based upon a wide variety of factors including operational requirements.

Some commands may have specified times when all or portions of the command can take leave at the same time. This is sometimes referred to as “block leave” and may happen before or after a deployment or during a holiday period. Block leave refers to time when most or all of the unit takes leave at the same time (as a “block”). Commonly, block leave time is allowed during the summer and Christmas holidays, and before and after deployments.

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How to request leave

Every command will have their own procedures for requesting leave. It may involve a paper or electronic leave request form, sometimes called a “leave chit.” The command will then approve or deny the leave request.

The service member must be sure to notify the command when beginning their approved leave, often called “checking out” on leave, and when returning from leave, “checking in.” The policies and procedures for checking out and checking in vary between commands and may include being physically present, telephonic or electronic notification.

You’ve earned it – Use your leave or lose it

Leave time continues to add up as earned, but there is a limit to how much leave can be carried over from one fiscal year to another. Typically, if you have accrued more than two months of unused leave, you lose any amount that exceeds 60 days at the end of the fiscal year, Sept. 30.

A service member may be authorized to carry over more than 60 days leave for a period of time. This is called a special leave accrual and is usually authorized due to deployment to certain areas of the world, assignment to certain designated units, or operational requirements that prevent the service member from taking leave.

Selling Back Leave

Service members may sell back leave when they reenlist, when they extend an enlistment or when they separate from the military. You may sell back a maximum of 60 days of leave over the course of your military career. Military leave is sold back at your base pay rate and does not include any special pays or allowances.

The different kinds of military leave policy

As a service member, you have different types of leave available to you. This ranges from regular leave to emergency leave to maternity/convalescent leave and parental leave Learn more about the different kinds of military leave and even the process for selling leave back.

Leave is an important part of your total military benefits package. Take advantage of some of your other military benefits while enjoying your leave. Learn more about your military pay and allowances as well as other financial benefits.

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