Special pay authorized for some service members isolated in temporary lodging
March 30, 2020
Stars and Stripes is making stories on the coronavirus pandemic available free of charge. See other free reports here. Sign up for our daily coronavirus newsletter here. Please support our journalism with a subscription.
Service members could receive extra money for hardships caused by coronavirus quarantines, self-isolation or restricted movement, under new Defense Department pay guidance.
The guidance, which was issued last week, also clarifies benefits for troops and families affected by a Pentagon stop-movement order that halted temporary duty and permanent change of station travel.
Commanders have “broad authority to exercise sound judgment in all cases,” the guidance states, but it strongly encourages them to consider authorizing telework. If traditional remote work isn’t possible, it says, commanders still may assign troops to their homes or temporary lodging as alternate duty locations.
A new category of special pay, known as Hardship Duty Pay-Restriction of Movement, or HDP-ROM, would provide service members $100 a day for up to 15 days each month if they are ordered to self-isolate at their permanent duty station, but can’t do so at their own homes or in government-provided quarters such as barracks or contracted hotels.
It’s meant to alleviate the hardship for troops who incur out-of-pocket expenses for the temporary lodging, which wouldn’t otherwise be reimbursed or defrayed. Troops returning to their home station after a deployment, but who are ordered to self-isolate away from government-funded housing or lodging, could also be eligible.
The benefit is taxable and a service member would be allowed to keep any excess if the pay exceeds their actual expenses. But they would not be reimbursed for the difference if the lodging cost exceeds the $1,500 a month maximum.
Service members receiving Basic Allowance for Housing or Overseas Housing Allowance, but who are ordered into self-isolation in government-funded lodging elsewhere will continue to receive housing allowance benefits at their normal rates, the guidance states.
Under the guidance, troops who are separated from their families during a military move may receive Family Separation Housing Allowance, authorizing two payments to cover the cost of housing at two locations. Troops may also qualify for a monthly $250 Family Separation Allowance in such cases, or in circumstances where the travel suspensions keep them apart.
If service members and families are required to self-isolate or quarantine after arriving at a new duty station, a special category of per diem, or a combination of per diem and temporary lodging pay, may be authorized, depending on the circumstances.
The authorities and flexibility outlined in the document are intended to “to promote, rather than to restrict, possible solutions” to support troops and families as the situation evolves.