Troops Get New Bereavement Leave for Loss of Spouse or Child

A woman stands next to a casket during a funeral.

Active-duty and some reserve and National Guard personnel who lose their spouse or a child and don't have more than 30 days of leave on the books are now eligible for 14 consecutive, non-chargeable days of bereavement leave, according to a Defense Department memorandum released Wednesday.

Those eligible include active-duty personnel, reserve members and full-time National Guard members who have served for longer than 12 months consecutively. Service members who have accrued 30 or more days of leave can take chargeable emergency leave, but if that results in a leave balance of below 30 days, they will become eligible for the benefit of up to 14 days.

The provision was included as part of the fiscal 2022 National Defense Authorization Act, along with the new parental leave policy, which allows new military parents to take up to 12 weeks of family leave following a birth or adoption, regardless of whether they are the primary or secondary caregiver.

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"The loss of a spouse or child has detrimental effects on a service member's ability to perform assigned duties. Bereavement leave is designed to allow service members time away from their military duties to make arrangements required by the tragic death of their spouses or children and to attend their funeral, burial or memorial service," DoD officials said in an announcement published online Wednesday.

The policy is effective as of March 29, but retroactive benefits are available to service members whose spouse or child died on or after June 25, 2022, and who were charged leave. They will have up to 14 days restored to their leave balance if they otherwise would have been eligible for the benefit.

The military services each must issue their respective bereavement leave policies, but any service member who qualifies before the branches do so will have up to 14 leave days restored if they qualify.

The benefit can be used for the death of a spouse; child (biological, adopted, step or foster); legal wards; and those for whom the service member is responsible for their daily care and financial support, otherwise known as “in loco parentis.”

Under the policy, commanders still have some leeway to curtail the number of days or extend them, depending on operational requirements.

More details can be found in the announcement, signed by Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Gil Cisneros.

– Patricia Kime can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @patriciakime.

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