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Military Leaves, Passes, and Liberty


African American military father holding baby
Blend Images - Ariel Skelley/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images
One of the entitlements most new military personnel want to learn about is LEAVE. Leave is paid vacation from duty for recreation and relief from the pressures of job-related duties. You may also take leave for personal reasons and emergency situations. A "pass" (called "liberty" in the Navy, Coast Guard, and Marine Corps) is time-off, not chargeable as leave.

Leave is a RIGHT (not a privilege) that is granted by Congress under Federal Law. While leave is a RIGHT, that doesn't necessarily mean you can take it whenever you wish. As with all things, "military necessity" determines when you can take your leave.

The overriding directive for leave (which applies to all the services) is DoD Directive 1327.5, Leave and Liberty. However, within the guidelines of this directive, each of the military services have published their own regulations which give the details (what forms to use, approval authorities, etc.,) for their specific service. Individual service leave regulations are:

Army -- Army Regulation 600-8-10 - Leaves and Passes

Air Force -- Air Force Instruction 36-3003 - Military Leave Program

Navy -- MILPERSMAN 1050, Leave and Liberty

Marine Corps -- Marine Corps Order (MCO) P1050.3H - Regulations for Leave, Liberty, and Administrative Absence

Accruing Leave

Leave accrues at the rate of 2 1/2 calendar days per month. Congress recognizes that military requirements may prevent members from using their planned leave. Thus, the law permits members to accrue a maximum of 60 days (the maximum that may be carried over into the next the fiscal year [FY]). The expression “use or lose” means that leave in excess of 60 days is lost if not used by the end of the FY (30 September).

Also, the military can pay members for unused leave at certain points in their career, such as reenlistment and voluntary retirements, separation, or discharge. By law, members may receive accrued leave payment up to a maximum of 60 days during their military career. When a member "sells" leave, he/she receives one day of base pay for each day of leave "sold." However, the legislative history of the law clearly expresses congressional concern that members use leave to relax from the pressures of duties and not as a method of compensation.

NOTE: Members do not earn leave when they are absent without official leave (AWOL), in an unauthorized absence status, serving a court-martial sentence, or in an excess leave status.

Special Leave Accrual

Members lose any leave in excess of 60 days at the end of the FY unless they are eligible for up to 30 days of special leave accrual (SLA). Eligible members who lose leave on 1 October may have only that portion of leave restored that could possibly have been taken before the end of the FY. Members are eligible for SLA if any of the following circumstances prohibit them from taking leave:

  • Deployment to an operational mission at the national level for at least 60 consecutive days.

  • Assignment or deployment for at least 60 consecutive days to unit, headquarters, and supporting staffs when their involvement supporting a designated operational mission prohibits them from taking leave.

  • Deployment to a hostile-fire or imminent danger pay area for 120 or more consecutive days and receive this special pay for 4 or more consecutive months. In this situation, Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS)- Denver will automatically carry over up to 30 days of leave. NOTE: In some instances, the deployment may overlap 2 FYs, for example, a deployment from 15 September until 14 November.

Beginning and Ending Leave

Leave must begin and end in the local area. The term “local area” means the place of residence from which the member commutes to the duty station on a daily basis. This also applies to leave en route to a PCS or TDY assignment. In this case, the local area, as defined at the old and new permanent duty station (PDS), applies. The old PDS is for beginning leave; the new PDS is for ending leave. Making a false statement of leave taken may result in punitive action under the UCMJ. Regardless of the amount of leave authorized, finance calculates leave based on the actual date of departure and date of return. General rules on charging leave are as follows:

Use your particular service's "Leave Authorization Form" for all types of leave. (EXCEPTION: When members take leave en route with PCS or TDY travel, the financial services office (FSO) uses the travel voucher to determine authorized travel and chargeable leave.) Normal off-duty days and holidays are chargeable leave days if they occur during an authorized period of leave. If leave includes a weekend, a member cannot end leave on a Friday and begin it again on Monday. Further, unit commanders will not approve successive Monday through Friday leaves (or periods of leave surrounding other normal off-duty days) except under emergency or unusual circumstances as determined by the unit commander.

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