US troops responding to the COVID-19 pandemic could receive hazardous duty pay and awards

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U.S. Army Reserve Urban Augmentation Medical Task Force Soldiers prepare to board buses at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, and deploy to locations across the nation in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, April 08, 2020

U.S. Army Reserve Urban Augmentation Medical Task Force Soldiers prepare to board buses at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, and deploy to locations across the nation in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, April 08, 2020

U.S. troops who have been activated during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic could receive hazardous duty pay and military awards, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said on Thursday.

More than 55,000 service members are currently deployed to help with COVID-19 relief efforts, including roughly 46,000 National Guardsmen, according to the Defense Department.

Defense officials are conducting a “very active discussion” about how to recognize those service members with special pay and awards, Army Gen. Mark Milley said at a virtual town hall, at which top defense officials took questions from troops and their families.

Milley said he expects the Pentagon to release guidance on these issues within the next 30 days on hazardous duty pay, individual awards, and unit awards.

“All of that kind of stuff is absolutely under consideration and we will recognize those appropriately in due course,” Milley said on Thursday. “But I would expect some guidance to come out here shortly.”

Read Milley’s entire answer below:

Q: The next question is for the chairman. The last question of the day is one that was submitted several times: More than 60,000 service members have deployed in response to COVID-19 – many at great personal risk. Is there discussion of hazardous duty pay or other recognition for those members? 

There is. There’s very active discussion and the SEAC [Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff] and all of the senior enlisted [leaders] to each of the services, they’re working in a working group to determine what the rules are going to be on all of that. They’re working with OSD P&R, which is the personnel and readiness secretary. 

And then once we come up with a policy for that – which I would expect we’ll probably have that through the various development processes here in the Pentagon within the next 30 days – I expect that we’ll put out some guidance that will be definitive under the [defense] secretary’s signature for those – about hazardous duty pay; about awards; about unit awards, individual awards, etc.

All of that kind of stuff is absolutely under consideration and we will recognize those appropriately in due course. But I would expect some guidance to come out here shortly.