WASHINGTON — The Army has rolled out new allowances for soldiers and families facing official travel delays or in quarantine amid the COVID-19 virus outbreak.
A hardship duty pay for restriction of movement, or HDP-ROM, now provides soldiers who are not currently in a travel status $100 per day — not to exceed $1,500 — to defray the cost of additional lodging if a commander restricts them to a self-monitoring period.
HDP-ROM may also be available to other soldiers who have been ordered to stay isolated, such as individuals returning from a deployment or temporary duty.
The hardship duty pay is a taxable, lump sum payment for each day in self-monitoring or isolation.
New isolation allowances are being given to soldiers and families ordered to stay isolated after completing a permanent change-of-station move.
The allowance is based on local per diem rates and starts after the soldier reports to a new duty station and before eligible for temporary lodging allowance or temporary lodging expense. The soldier must also incur a cost and not already be provided lodging or meals to earn the allowance.
Once their new command tells them they can start to in-process, soldiers will then be eligible for their regular PCS allowances.
Soldiers and families ordered to self-isolate or quarantine while proceeding to their next duty station will be placed on temporary duty and authorized per diem if lodging or meals are not provided.
In addition, soldiers currently on TDY status may be eligible to extend their orders to cover costs incurred during their self-monitoring period.
The Army currently has a 14-day mandatory quarantine for soldiers and a recommended self-quarantine for DOD civilians and family members returning from countries with a travel health notice of Alert Level 2 and above.
Additional details on the allowances can be found in an All Army Activity, or ALARACT, message that was published March 17.
“We will ensure that every soldier gets properly compensated for their PCS or TDY being delayed at no fault of their own,” said Angie Rodriguez-Torres, military compensation and entitlements analyst at the Army’s G-1 office.
On March 16, the Defense Department began to temporarily halt all domestic travel, including PCS and TDY travel, for service members, DOD civilians and their families assigned to DOD installations in the U.S. or its territories.
Leave in the local area is still authorized.
The domestic travel ban lasts until May 11 and follows other restrictions last week that stopped movement for 60 days to overseas locations with a Level 3 travel health notice, such as South Korea and much of Europe, where there has been widespread transmissions of the virus.
Exceptions may only be granted for compelling cases deemed mission essential, necessary for humanitarian reasons or warranted due to extreme hardship.
Around 30,000 soldiers were originally scheduled to PCS over the next 90 days, G-1 officials said.
“If you stop the clock at any time, we’re going to have soldiers in the pipeline with respect to transitioning,” said Larry Lock, chief of compensation and entitlements at the G-1 office. “It will happen any given day of the year.”
While the federal government continues to work on a stimulus package to help U.S. citizens and boost a struggling economy, Lock credited the DOD for its quick action in creating the allowances.
“We’re way ahead of that,” he said Wednesday. “We’ve already put stuff in place to ensure that our service members and their dependents are not inadvertently harmed (financially) while we work through these issues.”
The Army Human Resources Command has set up an emergency hotline to assist soldiers and families with PCS or TDY questions at 1-800-582-5552.
Soldiers can also contact the telephone number on their orders, or reach back to their old unit or arriving unit for additional guidance.
Shipment of household goods, including personal vehicles, for those scheduled to move will also be delayed until further notice.
The closure of on-post services, including daycare, schools and AAFES facilities, will be made by installation commanders based on their local environments, Army officials said.
Soldiers stationed in Italy or South Korea who plan to attend a military school in the U.S. for less than six months will need to postpone their schooling for now.
If the training is longer than six months, they will be required to arrive 14 days early for screening and quarantine.
The same applies to foreign military students. But if a foreign student is from a country with a Level 2 health notice or higher, they will not be able to participate in U.S. exercises, exchanges or visits.
American soldiers currently at a military school in the U.S. may return to a Level 2 country or above, if approved by the first general officer or senior executive in their chain of command, officials said.