Service members grieving the death of a spouse or child can now take up to two weeks of leave, according to a memo signed Wednesday by the Pentagon’s personnel chief.
The policy, required by the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act, applies to all all active duty members, including reservists serving on active orders or under mobilization orders of over 12 months.
“The loss of a spouse or child has detrimental effects on a member’s ability to perform assigned duties,” the memo reads, adding that “a member who experiences such a loss will be allowed up to 14 days of leave to be used in connection with the death of a spouse or child.”
The law created a new, non-chargeable type of leave for bereavement, allowing troops with fewer than 30 days of accrued leave to take time off to grieve without eating up their vacation days.
In practice, if a service member with more than 30 days of chargeable leave applies for up to two consecutive weeks off following the death of a spouse or child, they will use their vacation days until that bank hits 30. After that, the remaining days can be taken as non-chargeable bereavement leave.
For service members with fewer than 30 days in their leave bank, they can take the full 14 days of non-chargeable leave.
The bereavement period begins on the day of the death and extends to 14 days beyond the burial, funeral or memorial services, according to the memo, whichever occurs last.
If a service member initially requests fewer than 14 days, that period can be extended to the full amount within the authorized window.
The policy is retroactive to June 25, 2022, allowing any service members who used their vacation days following the death of a spouse or child to have those days restored to their leave banks, up to 30 total accrued days.
Unit commanders are authorized to approve bereavement leave, and service members have until 30 days after returning from leave to provide documentation of the spouse or child’s death.
“Swift and sensitive action on bereavement leave requests will be made to avoid additional stress on the member and their family,” the memo reads. The news was first reported by Military.com.
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.