Soldiers, Marines in limbo waiting for new parental leave policy to take effect
The Virginian-Pilot January 27, 2023
(Tribune News Service) — Soldiers and Marines are waiting in limbo for their services to implement the Department of Defense’s new parental leave policy.
The DOD released guidelines Jan. 4 to expand the military parental leave program, giving uniformed parents 12 weeks to welcome additions to their families. A day after the Pentagon issued the long-awaited policy, the Air Force, Space Force and Coast Guard implemented it. The Navy released its policy Jan. 19, two weeks later.
But the Army and Marine Corps have yet to update their policies, putting their personnel who are expecting a child in a holding pattern.
“I am not going to lie, I am a little bit upset about (the delay),” said Vincent Holland, a diesel mechanic specialist for the Army at Fort Eustis in Newport News, Va.
According to the DOD’s directive, active duty birth mothers are allowed 12 weeks of parental leave following six weeks of convalescent leave, while the non-birth parent is eligible for 12 weeks of parental leave. Uniformed parents welcoming adopted or long-term foster children also are authorized 12 weeks of leave.
Holland requested 12 weeks of leave following the birth of his baby boy on Jan. 22. Instead, he was authorized to take the three weeks provided under a now outdated Army policy.
“It was exciting, at first, to find out I would have that much time to bond with our newborn because I never got to bond with our first son, Gianni, because I was deployed. But then I found out the Army had not acknowledged the new Department of Defense policy yet. So we are just playing the waiting game now,” Holland said.
The policy was mandated by the National Defense Authorization Act of 2022, which was signed into law in December 2021.
According to an Army spokesperson, the service was still “refining” and “finalizing” its new policy as of Tuesday — 20 days after the DOD released its directive and more than a year after the armed forces learned the policy was in the works.
“We are being deliberate about this update to ensure a smooth experience for Soldiers,” Lt. Col. Terence Kelley, director of media relations for the U.S. Army, wrote in an email. “This effort includes developing materials to educate the force about the new benefit and modifying our personnel system (IPPS-A) to be ready to receive requests.”
The Marine Corps’ new policy was “in routing for final approval” as of Friday afternoon, according to Yvonne Carlock, the service’s deputy communication strategy and operations officer.
Those who welcomed a new child on or after Dec. 27 or who had unused caregiver or maternity convalescent leave by Dec. 27 will be grandfathered into the new policy. Service members can request to extend their leave once the policies are handed down.
Language in the directive does not identify a deadline for the services to implement the new policy.
But Holland said he was directed by a commanding officer to check in on Feb. 1 to see if the policy was released. The Army did not respond to a request for a date when the service expected to implement its policy.
The slow rollout, Holland said, is putting extra stress on his family.
“Our new baby, Anthony, is having some problems, and my wife and I already have a 6-year-old,” Holland said.
On top of adjusting to a growing family, Holland is also juggling college classes and working a part-time job to provide for his family. Just two days into his leave, he was holding his breath, hoping the Army puts out its new rules before his 21 days are up.
“I was counting on having more time with my baby and my family. … If the policy doesn’t come, I have to figure something out — I will probably have to request to take normal leave,” Holland said.
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