The military community is known for being adaptable, open to change, and quick to react. This is true during times of conflict and during challenging global issues, like dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. Across all branches of the military, servicemembers, families, and retirees are learning to live within a new normal, and with that comes change. These COVID-19 updates serve as a resource for you and your family.
Those who were in the middle of (or preparing to PCS), along with National Guard/Reserve components, and retirees have been significantly impacted by the coronavirus and resulting changes to policy.
Please be sure to check with your installation to confirm the latest COVID-19 updates, as the information below is ever-changing.
Additionally, we have the following resources:
- COVID-19 – Medical Resources for the Military Community
- COVID-19 – Financial Resources for the Military Community
As the effects of COVID-19 continue to impact our lives, one of the most pressing issues for military families is the Stop-Movement order issued March 13, 2020. The DoD restricted domestic and international travel to curb the spread of the disease. While this order was issued to protect the health and readiness of our force, its impact on the day-to-day life of many servicemembers is significant.
Initially, domestic restrictions were issued through May 11, 2020. However, on April 6th Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein hinted at the possibility of PCS orders being pushed out until August during a Facebook live event.
Check https://move.mil/ for the latest PCS Stop-Movement and COVID-19 updates.
International travel has been banned since March 25, 2020, and that guidance is expected to stay in place for 60 days. This policy applies to all servicemembers, DoD civilian workers, and DoD family members whose transportation is funded by the government.
There are some exceptions to travel: humanitarian reasons, extreme hardship, or when the travel of a servicemember is deemed mission essential. Cases are evaluated individually, so it’s best to check with your chain of command for current guidance. Additionally, Move.mil lists all approved Stop-Movement exceptions.
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) permits the termination of leases based on military orders. However, the DoD Stop-Movement doesn’t qualify, so servicemembers are strongly encouraged to avoid signing leases at their new duty installation.
The DoD understands that with PCS season getting started, there are thousands of servicemembers who have already shipped their Household Goods (HHG) but haven’t yet departed their losing installation. The current guidance encourages servicemembers to contact their chain of command for the most up-to-date options available.
The DoD encourages servicemembers and families to become familiar with the Joint Travel Regulation, specifically Chapters 2 and 5. These chapters cover what entitlements might be available to help offset some of the financial strain that has resulted from the Stop-Movement order.
The COVID-19 situation continues to evolve, and with it, new guidance on options for servicemembers and their families. For more information, refer to your local garrison webpage or review the DoD FAQ, available here.
Guard / Reserve Activations
National Guard and Reserve components of all military branches are currently being activated to address the myriad of challenges our country is facing in response to COVID-19. Currently, more than 21,000 Army and Air National Guard support servicemembers have been activated. They will help states manage with the pandemic working with the Army Corps of Engineers to increase the number of available medical facilities, supporting logistics operations and serving as response planners, among many other duties.
Additionally, 18 states, the District of Columbia, and two territories have been approved to use Title 32 to use federal funds for state missions, which makes it easier for governors to mobilize Guard troops. This means that National Guard servicemembers will also receive the same benefits as those on active duty status. Title 32 activation lasts for 30 days, but it’s expected that the activation order will last at least six weeks.
Reserve servicemembers are encouraged to contact their chain of command for the latest information. Reserve leadership continues to monitor and evaluate the COVID-19 pandemic.
Retiree and Veteran Resources
Across the country, VA call centers are experiencing higher than average numbers of calls from veterans and retirees with questions about COVID-19. The VA has a rigorous plan in place to care for retirees and veterans. As of writing, the VA has administered over 28,000 tests and is taking aggressive measures to deep-clean facilities to prevent the spread of the disease.
The Emergency Management Coordination Cell at the VA has been activated. Currently, clinical screenings at all VA facilities are underway. Testing is based on several factors, including pre-existing conditions, severity of symptoms, and the possibility of exposure to someone who has tested positive. There is no charge for testing.
If you have an upcoming routine appointment scheduled with the VA, current guidance indicates utilizing telehealth appointment options whenever possible. If you have a non-urgent/elective procedure scheduled, it might be rescheduled for a later date.
At the time of writing, the Veteran Benefits Administration has moved completely online, and all regional offices are closed indefinitely. That means that benefit claims hearings are done remotely using video conference calls. To help offset the challenges of older veterans using technology, the VA is temporarily allowing veterans to cancel meetings with judges without jeopardizing their benefits claims.
Some veterans are now focused on pursuing disability payments after being laid off from their full-time employment. However, new claims require an exam from a physician, and since it’s incredibly difficult to see a doctor right now, the processing times are expected to be lengthy. The VA recommends veterans begin the process anyway to help offset the flux once the appointments resume. Even more importantly, once a veteran initiates a claim, the payment clock starts – which means once you’re approved, you’ll be issued retroactive payment.
As conditions continue to change, the pressures and stresses for family members also evolve. As most active-duty installations switch to telework options and online learning, many families are learning how to recreate their normal schedules. This can prove difficult even for a community that prides itself on being adaptable to any change.
Family members are encouraged to remember that this is new for everyone, their household isn’t going to look “normal.” Military OneSource offers advice for dealing with everything ranging from childcare to education and how to remain resilient during these unsettled times. Visit their COVID-19 page for more information and for free resources and all relevant COVID-19 updates.