Will troops continue to receive special pays amid the COVID-19 pandemic? It depends

Troops who receive special types of compensation, such as hazardous-duty pay, could continue to receive that money in their paychecks...

Editor’s note: This article by Amy Bushatz originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community

Troops who receive special types of compensation, such as hazardous-duty pay, could continue to receive that money in their paychecks during the novel coronavirus pandemic, regardless of whether they perform those qualifying duties, Pentagon officials announced Thursday.

In addition, those ordered to eat at government dining halls won't be docked their subsistence allowance.

Whether troops get to keep the pays is ultimately up to each service's top officials, a new memo notes.

“Your command, your Service, and DoD recognize that, as a result of the effects or extended effects of COVID-19, Service members (active and reserve) who are receiving special or incentive pays that require the performance of specific … may be unable to perform the required duties through no fault of their own,” says a Defense Department fact sheet. “As long as you are otherwise eligible for your special and incentive pay, your service secretary has the authority to waive the performance requirements so you can continue to receive your pay.”

The waivers apply to both active-duty troops and Guard and Reserve members, the memo states, and questions should be directed to individual chains of command.

The new memo also lays out specific guidance for Guard and Reserve members who are unable to attend drill dates due to the crisis. Commanders of those troops are given the go-ahead to allow teleworking or “alternate place of duty” drill days paid at the normal rates, the memo states. Whether telework drill time is possible will be based on the units' access to online training and equipment, such as common access card, or CAC, readers, it says.

The memo also gives Guard and Reserve members new leeway in paying Tricare and Servicemembers Group Life Insurance (SGLI) premiums.

Tricare Reserve Select (TRS), available for purchase by members of the Selected Reserve, costs about $230 a month for a family and is paid for by monthly, automatic credit or debit card charges, not paycheck allotment. SGLI, on the other hand, is typically paid by allotment.

If a Guard member or reservist has their drill dates canceled and isn't receiving a drill-related paycheck from which SGLI fees can be deducted, those fees will instead be docked as a lump sum the next time the member is paid, the guidance states.

And while TRS premiums are still required over the course of the pandemic, the guidance says, no user will be disenrolled for non-payment until 90 days after the officially designated COVID-19 emergency has ended. At that point, a full payment will be required or the family or service member will be disenrolled, retroactive to the date of the last payment. If that happens, the memo warns, Tricare will also charge the user for any medical costs covered by the system.

“If any Tricare payments were made for those uncovered dates of service, the Tricare contractor will be required to recoup the payments,” it states.

This article originally appeared on Military.com

More articles from Military.com: