Military Humanitarian or Compassionate Assignments
Requesting Assignments for Extreme Family Problems
It's an unfortunate truth that sometimes during a military career, a member may experience a severe family hardship which requires his/her presence to resolve, with circumstances which make resolving it with emergency leave impractical.
To help military members in such situations, each of the services has developed a program which allows military members to be re-assigned, or temporarily deferred from assignment, if they have a severe family hardship which absolutely requires their presence to resolve.
The Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard call this program Humanitarian Assignments. The Army calls their program Compassionate Assignments.
Exceptional Family Member Program
While not a component of Humanitarian/Compassionate Assignments, the Exceptional Family Member Program or EFMP warrants special mention. EFMP was developed to make sure military family members (dependents) with special needs (medical, educational, etc.), receive the special attention they require. A small part of this program is integrated into the military assignments system.
When a military member has dependents (spouse, son, daughter, step-son, step-daughter, etc.) with special needs, they are enrolled in EFMP. If the member is selected for an accompanied assignment, one of the first things that happen is the EFMP folks at the losing base contact the EFMP folks at the projected gaining base to determine if the dependent's special needs can be adequately addressed at the new location.
If not, the assignment is canceled. This ensures that military dependents are not forced to move to locations where their special needs cannot be adequately addressed, either by the military installation or in the local community.
EFMP does not restrict a member from doing his/her share of unaccompanied assignments, however, so they can still deploy.
The program merely makes sure that members aren't selected for an accompanied assignment to areas where their dependents would not get the special attention they require.
A Humanitarian Assignment is a special assignment authorized to alleviate a hardship so severe an emergency leave cannot fully resolve it. While each of the services has different procedures, there are some requirements which are common to all the branches.
To qualify for a Humanitarian Assignment consideration, a military member must have a documented and substantiated problem involving a family member, which is significantly more severe than other military members experience. "Family Member" is generally defined as spouse, child, father, mother, father-in-law, mother-in-law, person in loco parentis or other persons residing in the household who are dependent for over half of their financial support. In the Coast Guard, father-in-law, and mother-in-law do not qualify as family members for the purposes of Humanitarian Assignments.
The problem must be able to be resolved within a specific time-frame (six months to two years, depending on the branch of service). Military members are expected to be available for worldwide assignment, at all times, according to the needs of the service.
That's a large part of why they get a paycheck. For those who have a permanent or prolonged family problem which prevents reassignment, humanitarian discharge is generally the appropriate action.
The Comptroller General has ruled that the military services cannot fund an assignment relocation for humanitarian reasons only. That means there must be a valid slot at the gaining base for the person's rank and job. For example, the Air Force would not be able to reassign an F-15 Fighter Aircraft Mechanic to a base that does not have slots for F-15 Fighter Aircraft Mechanics. However, sometimes a service will allow a member to re-train into a different job, in order to fill a required slot at the Humanitarian Assignment Location.
Army Compassionate Action Requests
The Army calls their Humanitarian Assignment Program "Compassionate Action Requests." Compassionate actions are requests from individual soldiers when personal problems exist.
The two types of compassionate requests are when personal problems are:
- Temporary (resolvable within a year).
- Not expected to be resolved within a year.
A reassignment may be authorized when there are extreme family problems and the soldier's presence is needed. A soldier may get a deletion or deferment from an overseas assignment if the problem requires them to stay in the U.S. for a short time.
If the problem is chronic or can't be resolved in a short amount of time, a compassionate discharge procedure is generally the most appropriate action. Consideration for reassignment may be given in cases of extreme family problems that are not expected to be resolved within a year if it meets the needs of the Army.
Requests are made on DA Form 3739, Application for Assignment/Deletion/Deferment for Extreme Family Problems submitted through the chain of command. This must be done by the soldier. Commanders can disapprove compassionate requests when they clearly do not meet the prerequisites. The Army Personnel Command has approval authority for compassionate reassignment.
Criteria for Compassionate Action
- The soldier needs to be present to resolve the problem, and it can't be done with leave.
- The problem cannot have been foreseen when the soldier last entered active duty.
- A family member includes spouse, child, parent, minor brother or sister, person in loco parentis, or the only living blood relative of the soldier. If not one of those people, they must be documented as a dependent or, in the case of parents-in-law, no other member of the spouse's family can help.
- For reassignment, a job (MOS) of the correct rank must be available at the requested installation.
- A pending assignment may be deferred until the request is decided. However, soldiers in basic training will not be deferred from AIT pending the results.
- The problem must be temporary and resolvable within one year, although longer deferments are sometimes approved.
Examples of Requests That Are Normally Approved
- Death, rape, or severe psychotic episode of your spouse or minor child.
- Terminal illness of an immediate family member whose doctor documents they are expected to pass within 12 months.
- Major surgery for spouse or minor child which will have 12 months or less of recovery time.
- If you were separated from your family due to military service (not negligence or misconduct) and your children are being placed in foster care.
- Adoption if the child is being placed within 90 days and the adoption was initiated before notification of reassignment.
- Soldiers en route from an accompanied OCONUS tour to an unaccompanied OCONUS tour may be deferred for up to 30 days. The deferment is for settlement of family when the soldier's presence is required for unforeseen problems.
- A recent death of other family members with extenuating circumstances.
Examples of Requests That Are Normally Not Approved
- You want to move to a new area.
- Divorce or separation and legal actions relating to it, including child custody.
- Gaining child custody in a divorce.
- Sole parenthood.
- Spouse's difficult pregnancy.
- Family member's allergies.
- Housing problems.
- Financial problems.
- Chronic problems relating to parents or parents-in-law.
If a compassionate action request is disapproved, a soldier may only request reconsideration for the same family emergency one time. If that is disapproved, there will be no further reconsideration.
For complete details about the Army's Compassionate Assignments Program, see Army Regulation 614-200, Enlisted Assignments and Utilization Management, paragraph 5-8.
More Humanitarian Assignments
Do I have to resign at the end of my LWOP time period?
A resignation must only be submitted with the LWOP request when it is known that the employee is not expected to return to duty at the location they are leaving. This would be the case when LWOP is requested to accompany a spouse on a Permanent Change of Station move.
For what purposes may LWOP be requested?
Employees may apply for LWOP for medical or personal reasons, such as to provide care for a family member, or to accompany a government-employed spouse to a new duty location. Under the provisions of the Family Medical Leave Act, in some situations, an employee may be granted up to 12 weeks of LWOP in any 12-month period for care of a family member.
How do I apply for LWOP?
Requests for LWOP, along with supporting documentation, are submitted to the employee's immediate supervisor. All requests for LWOP of 30 calendar days or more must be endorsed by the first and second level supervisors and submitted to the DoDEA, Employee Relations Section, for approval.
How does LWOP affect my educator leave?
Full Time DoDDS Educators are advanced 10 days of educator leave at the beginning of the school year. For every 21 days in LWOP status, you lose 1 day of educator leave. Additionally, you may be indebted for any educator leave used that was not earned by serving the entire school year.
How does LWOP affect my Federal Employee Health Benefits (FEHB)?
Employees who are covered by a Federal Employee Health Benefits Plan are required to pay the employee's share of the premium while in a nonpay status. Employees shall make appropriate arrangements for payment of the premiums with the servicing payroll office. After 365 days in a nonpay status, health insurance stops subject to a 31-day extension for conversion to nongroup coverage. Enrollment will end on the last day of the pay period that included the 365th day of continuous nonpay status. Enrollees are not eligible for temporary continuation of coverage (TCC) when their coverage terminates during leave without pay status or insufficient pay. Additional information can be obtained by accessing the OPM web site www.opm.gov/insure.
How does LWOP affect my Thrift Savings Plan (TSP)?
Since you are not receiving pay while on LWOP, you would not be contributing additional monies into your TSP account. The funds would remain in their accounts. If you move while on LWOP, notify your Customer Service Representative who will in turn advise the Thrift Savings Board. The Board will not take this information directly from an employee who is still on agency rolls. For further information, contact www.tsp.gov.
How does LWOP affect my Within Grade Increase (WGI) increase?
Except for absences for military service or receiving injury compensation, excess LWOP will affect the waiting period for a WGI. If you are a General Schedule (GS) employee in a 52-week waiting period for steps 2, 3, or 4; you may be in a nonpay status for up to 2 workweeks (80 hours for a full time employee) without adversely affecting your WIGI. If you are a GS employee in a 104-week waiting period for steps 5, 6, or 7, you may be in a nonpay status for up to 4 workweeks (120 hours for full time employee). If you are a GS employee in a 156-week waiting period for steps 8, 9, or 10; you may be in a nonpay status for up to 6 workweeks (240 hours for full-time employee). If you are a Teacher Pay (TP) employee, you must work at least 150 days in a school year for that time to be creditable for your next increase.
If I go on LWOP, will I be able to continue receiving Living Quarters Allowance and/or Post Allowance?
Normally, you are not eligible for overseas allowances and differentials while you are in a LWOP status exceeding 14 calendar days at any one time. In such cases, your eligibility terminates on the day you enter a LWOP status. However, if you are returned to duty to a full-time position at the same or to a different foreign area post prior to the expiration of your LWOP, your eligibility for overseas allowances and differentials would resume upon your return to duty.
To whom should I address any additional questions on LWOP?
If your question pertains to the procedures for requesting LWOP, you should contact the DoDEA, Employee Relations Section, at (703) 696-1682. If your question pertains to the processing of your SF-50 once the LWOP has been approved or concerns a benefit while you are in a LWOP status, you should contact your servicing personnel program management team.
What do I do if I'm on LWOP and have a TSP loan?
Contact your Personnel Center Representative in your district office to assist in completing the form TSP-41, 'Notification to TSP of Nonpay Status'. This will notify the Thrift Savings Board of your new address and request that your loan be placed on hold. For further information, contact www.tsp.gov.
What happens to my retirement while I'm on LWOP?
Since you're in a non-pay status, you would not be making contributions toward your retirement. Any funds already in a retirement program for you would remain there and cannot be withdrawn while on LWOP.
What is Leave Without Pay (LWOP)?
Leave Without Pay is an approved absence without pay requested in advance for use by an employee. In most cases, the approval of LWOP is at the agency's discretion.