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What Do Travel Restrictions Mean for Military Families?

Current as of April 20, 2021


As the global coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic continues, the Department of Defense is reviewing local conditions by place to determine travel restrictions. The DOD uses the restrictions to limit virus spread, protect your health, and keep the military force effective and ready.

Below, find answers to the most frequently asked questions about travel. For more information, see the DOD COVID-19 Travel Restrictions Installation Status Update dated Feb. 22, 2021.

A: There is no set date to lift restrictions broadly. Travel decisions are being made at a regional level based on local conditions.

A: The undersecretary of defense for Personnel and Readiness will continuously assess each U.S. state or territory and nations that host greater than 1,000 permanently assigned DOD personnel. The Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will provide guidance. Factors that may lead to the lifting of the travel restrictions are:

  • Removal of shelter-in-place orders or other travel restrictions
  • A 14-day drop in flu-like and COVID-19 symptoms
  • A 14-day drop in new COVID-19 cases or positive tests

A: Travel to and from DOD installations, facilities and locations will be determined by leadership and will involve the evaluation of various factors including:

  • Removal of local travel restrictions
  • Availability of essential services, including schools, child care and moving services
  • The capability to perform quality control and assurance for household goods packing and movement
  • Favorable health protection conditions

DOD installations, facilities and locations with more than 1,000 permanent personnel will provide weekly travel restrictions status updates on the Military OneSource homepage.

A: Travel restrictions remain in place until localities meet the requirements above. They apply to DOD service members and their dependents, and DOD civilian personnel whose travel is government-funded and their dependents. Except for exemptions and waivers, the restrictions apply to:

  • Temporary duty travel
  • Government-funded leave travel
  • Permanent duty travel, including permanent change of station
  • Travel related to Department of State authorized/ordered departures
  • Personal leave and nonofficial travel for DOD service members outside the local area
  • Onboarding of civilian employees outside the local commuting area (unless the government is not funding the employees’ travel to the local commuting area)

Continue to check our Coronavirus Updates for Our Military Community page for information related to COVID-19.

A: The restrictions apply to all DOD service members, civilian employees, dependents of service members and personnel whose travel is government funded, both domestically and internationally.

A: Government-funded travel is any travel that the government funds. It includes PCS and TDY travel.

A: The services continue to recruit and assess new members. They are putting procedures in place to safely continue recruiting and training. Each service branch is making decisions about basic training and officer training school. Your recruit should call or email their recruiter for updates.

A: Commanders and supervisors will conduct a risk assessment of the health status and travel itinerary for service members requesting leave. Service members should not travel if they display a fever or other symptoms consistent with COVID-19 or if they have had close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 within the past 14 days. DOD personnel will comply with any DOD, federal, state and local restrictions while in a leave status.

A: Leave restrictions apply only to service members. However, we encourage you to follow the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention when deciding whether to travel. If you do travel, follow these CDC guidelines to protect others from getting sick:

  • When around others, stay at least 6 feet (about two arms’ length) from other people who are not from your household. It is important to do this everywhere, both indoors and outdoors.
  • Wear a mask to keep your nose and mouth covered when you are outside of your home.
  • Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer.
  • Watch your health: Look for symptoms of COVID-19, and take your temperature if you feel sick.
  • Find out about infection rates. You may want to reconsider travel if the number of COVID-19 cases is high at home or at your destination. The CDC keeps an updated list of United States COVID-19 Cases and Deaths by State.

A: The Pentagon remains open and operational, but with restricted access and enhanced health protection measures in place.

A: Your service member should check with his or her supervisor before traveling. Currently, travel is allowed for:

  • Travel associated with uniformed personnel recruiting and accessions activities, including accessions, basic training, advanced military individual training and follow-on travel to the first duty station
  • All Global Force Management scheduled deployments and redeployments
  • Authorized travelers who departed their permanent duty station and are “awaiting transportation” and have already initiated travel (including intermediate stops)
  • Travel by patients and medical providers for the purposes of medical treatment for DOD personnel and their families
  • Authorized travelers whose TDY ends while restrictions are in effect
  • Individuals pending retirement or separation
  • Travel authorized by the commander, U.S. Transportation Command, to continue execution of the Joint Deployment and Distribution Enterprise as required to protect and sustain the Joint Force globally
  • Travel by those under the authority of a chief of mission and authorized by that chief of mission
  • Travel from locations where the Department of State has issued an ordered departure
  • Travel from safe havens when the Department of State has terminated an ordered or authorized departure
  • Travel to and from professional military education programs
  • Travel associated with formal, entry-level civilian accession programs, such as government-funded internships and fellowships
  • Travel by civilian employees complying with overseas tour rotation agreement requirements.
  • Leave travel for DOD Service members.

A: Individuals who separate or retire are exempt from the travel restrictions.

A: Exceptions must go through the chain of command and may be granted on a case-by-case basis for travel that is:

  • Essential to the mission
  • Necessary for humanitarian reasons
  • Warranted due to extreme hardship

A: Service members who receive special or incentive pay(s) that require performance of specific duties, such as Hazardous Duty Incentive Pay, Aviation Incentive Pay, etc., may be unable to perform those duties due to COVID-19 restrictions. The assistant secretary of defense for Manpower and Reserve Affairs announced that the service secretary can waive those performance requirements so that the service member can continue to receive these special and incentive pays during this emergency period.

Your service member can speak to his or her chain of command to find out if he or she qualifies for the waiver.

Travel restrictions outside the continental U.S.

The secretaries of the military departments and commanders of the combatant commands will continuously assess each DOD installation, facility or location.

A: Reservists who complete their overseas orders will be permitted to return home, unless extended to meet mission requirements. Reserve Component personnel (including National Guard) on official travel will complete any required health and restriction of movement measure, including home-based quarantine or self-isolation if required, prior to the end of the official duty period.

A: During any required or recommended ROM period individuals should:

  • Restrict movement to residence or other appropriate domicile
  • Limit close contact with anyone you didn’t travel with, adhere to strict wearing of face covering, frequent hand washing, avoid crowds, avoid use of public transportation, avoid close interaction with pets
    • Adhere to these guidelines for 14 days even if ROM period is less than 14 days
  • Consider ROM location as official duty location
  • Self-monitor for fever, cough, difficulty breathing or other COVID symptoms
    • If symptoms develop, self-isolate, seek advice via telephone with a healthcare provider, return to work only at the direction of the healthcare provider
  • Notify chain of command or supervisor if they or others in their household develop symptoms
  • Telework when practical per direction of commander or supervisor

Post-arrival ROM may not be required if travelers comply with destination health authority testing requirements.

A: That depends on their particular situation. The Department of Defense has authorized Hardship Duty Pay – Restriction of Movement in response to the COVID-19 emergency. Your service member should contact his or her chain of command to find out if he or she qualifies.

If your service member is eligible for this pay, he or she can 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. Your service member must be paying to stay somewhere other than your own residence, a government lodging facility or a hotel that is paid for by the government. See the Department of Defense fact sheet COVID-19 Military Personnel, Pay, and Benefits Policy to learn about circumstances in which allowances are authorized.

Travel restrictions and your PCS logistics

A: Each situation is different. You will need to contact your shipping office to determine if your household goods are still in the local area and whether or not you may have access to them. If your household goods are in transit to the new location, you should contact your servicing personnel office to verify if your orders still authorize continuing on the previous move or if they need to be amended.

A: Contact your chain of command. If travel restrictions do not apply to your PCS — or your chain of command has approved an exception — proceed to the VPC as planned.

A: If you’re interested in retrieving your vehicle, contact the VPC immediately. VPCs are postured to assist you with changing appointments, vehicle retrieval and answering any other POV-related questions you have.

A: If travel restrictions are affecting you and your family, you or your service member (as appropriate) 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 could receive a hardship exception to proceed with the PCS.
  • Ask your legal office if you have options under the Servicemembers Relief Act and the rental/purchase contract’s military clause, which may permit you to cancel the contract.

Have your service member contact his or her chain of command to learn what assistance is available to your family. The Department of Defense will use all means available to help you. The services also have relief societies that may be able to provide some emergency support.

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

A: DOD will use all means available to assist you if you were impacted by COVID-19. Approved reimbursable travel expenses are authorized to be placed on the government travel card. Contact your chain of command for assistance.

A: Service members: Travel restrictions may impact your PCS and your eligibility for Basic Allowance for Housing 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 could 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.

If you are ordered to temporarily return to the old PDS or to an alternate location, you could be issued TDY orders and may be authorized standard travel and transportation allowances in accordance with Joint Travel Regulations, Chapter 2. If you are ordered to remain in place or to an alternate location to await transportation, then per diem may be authorized in accordance with JTR Chapter 5, Part A. If lodging in kind or meals in kind are provided, then per diem is not payable.

A: Dependents: If you remain in place while you wait for transportation, then per diem may be authorized in accordance with JTR Chapter 5, Part A. If you do not remain in place awaiting transportation, then per diem is not authorized. If you are authorized to temporarily return to the old PDS or to an alternate location to await transportation, then you may be authorized standard PCS allowances from the location where notified of the delay to the location named in the amended PCS order, in accordance with JTR, Chapter 5, Part A. If you receive lodging in kind or meals in kind, then per diem is not payable.

Service members and family members, you can keep up with ongoing changes to travel and housing policy due to COVID-19 at the Defense Travel and Housing Policy website.

Want to find the phone number for your installation’s housing office or military and family support center? Find those and more on MilitaryINSTALLATIONS, an online information directory for military installations worldwide.

Understanding of COVID-19 is rapidly changing. For updates and information specific to your location, visit your installation’s official website.

For Department of Defense updates for the military community:

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