An overseas posting can be a great experience for a family, but sometimes things don't work out as intended. Under certain situations, a family may find that they need to return to the US*, but the service member needs to remain overseas. This is called an early return of dependents, but usually shortened to EROD or ERD. Of course, the military has rules and regulations for these cases, and it is good to know a little bit about them if you are going overseas. While 99% of families will never experience an ERD, it's still better to be knowledgeable. ERDs are covered in the Joint Travel Regulations (JTR).
While people may choose to move home at any time, such a move will not be government-funded unless certain criteria are met. Typically, this includes:
- the non-availability of appropriate medical care for a family member,
- the death, serious illness or incapacitation of an adult dependent, leaving minor dependents without appropriate care,
- inadequate educational or housing facilities,
- financial difficulties,
- marital difficulties,
- death or serious illness of a close relative.
- There are other, more obscure reasons as well. See JTFR for complete details.
The relevant benefits differ depending on the reason for the ERD, and many require the determination of a local authority to justify the situation. It must be established that the problem did not arise until after arrival at the overseas location. In addition, all local resources must first be utilized. This includes financial services, mental heath services, family counseling, and legal advice. In short,
Early return of a dependent(s) under par. U5900-D2 must be employed judiciously; it is a last resort.
An ERD is not a fast or easy option. If you believe that you might be eligible, the first step is to contact your command.
JTR Chapter 5, Part A, Section 3, Subsection A3d discusses transportation allowances in ERD situations. In general, when the ERD is considered to be in the government's interest, the government pays for all transportation costs under the usual travel regulations.
In conjunction with an authorized ERD, members may utilize some or all of their household goods allowance to transport the family's possession to the location where the family will be residing. Such movement will reduce the available allowance on the servicemember's next PCS move.
A servicemember utilizing an ERD will be allowed to ship one vehicle, but this then exhausts their benefit. No further vehicle shipments will be authorized.
JFTR Volume I, Chapter 10, Part E, Section 6 discussed housing allowances in ERD situations. If a family ERDs at government expense, the servicemember becomes eligible for Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) at the with dependents rate for the location where the family is to reside. Once BAH begins at the family's new location, the servicemember's Overseas Housing Allowance (OHA) drops to the without dependents rate.
Family Separation Allowance will not be authorized it the ERD is due to marital issues, misconduct, or other personal situations.
Obviously, there is much more to an ERD than can be covered in a short article like this. However, it is important to understand the basic concepts. You never know when a friend or a neighbor may need this information.
*There are provisions for moving families to locations outside the US, such as a spouse's home country. Read the Joint Travel Regs for more information.
This article was updated on 19 October 2014 to reflect the changes to the Joint Travel Regulations.