Troops Fighting COVID-19 Could Qualify for Extra Pay

Troops Fighting COVID-19 Could Qualify for Extra Pay

Photo by: Spc. Hayden Hallman

Service members serving on the front lines of the COVID-19 fight could soon qualify for extra pay and individual or unit awards, the military’s top officer said.

There is “very active discussion” in the Pentagon on a policy and way ahead, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Army Gen. Mark Milley said May 28 during a virtual town hall.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Ramon Colon-Lopez, the senior enlisted adviser to the chairman, also participated in the event.

Milley, who was responding to a submitted question, said Colon-Lopez and senior enlisted leaders from each of the services are working with DoD personnel leaders on the issue.

“Once they come out with a policy, within the next 30 days, we expect to put out some guidelines,” Milley said, without providing additional details.

More than 55,400 DoD personnel, including about 46,000 National Guard soldiers and airmen, are supporting COVID-19 response efforts across the country. They have, among other tasks, provided medical care, restocked shelves at food banks, provided mortuary affairs assistance, made and distributed face coverings, manned call centers, and supported COVID-19 testing sites.

As DoD continues to support COVID-19 response efforts across the country, the department is working to ease restrictions that have been in place for weeks, including travel restrictions that have affected troops due for permanent change-of-station moves, Esper said.

But he added that troops should not rush to get back business as usual. “We all want to return to normal … and we’re all anxious to get on with things, but it’s all about protecting our force, our people,” he said. DoD’s safety measures have worked, and “we want to be very deliberate, phased, conditions-based,” Esper said.

The leaders also acknowledged the challenges service members, DoD civilians and their families have faced during the pandemic.

Colon-Lopez encouraged troops and family members to stay connected and reach out if they need help. “Do not stay silent out of pride,” he said. “These are hard times, not just for the Department of Defense, but the nation writ large.”