FAQs: COVID-19 impact to the U.S. Army Reserve

By Army Reserve Strategic Communications | U.S. Army Reserve Command | May 19, 2020

FORT BRAGG, N.C. —

 

U.S. ARMY COVID-19 HOTLINE: 1-800-984-8523

OCONUS DSN: 312-421-3700 | CONUS DSN: 421-3700

CDC INFORMATION HOTLINE: 1-800-232-4636

SUSPENSION OF BATTLE ASSEMBLIES AND OTHER TRAVEL

Effective immediately, the CAR/CG authorizes the use of Virtual Battle Assemblies (VBAs) for all Army Reserve Troop Program Unit (TPU) Commands. See his Soldier Virtual Battle Assembly policy, dated 3 April 2020.  Scheduled battle assemblies and other travel are suspended until further notice to ensure commanders can act to safeguard the health, safety and welfare of Soldiers, families and communities. Collective training events originally scheduled for March, April and May are also suspended, canceled or postponed.  Soldiers and civilian employees should contact their chain of command for schedule information.

To minimize risk to the force and ensure operational readiness, all U.S. Army personnel are also encouraged to follow guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to include avoidance of all nonessential travel to countries designated by the CDC as Level 3 Travel Health Notice countries. Level 3 Health Notice countries are those with widespread, ongoing transmission of the COVID-19 virus and no restrictions on entry to the United States. A list of Level 3 Health Notice countries can be found at the CDC website at .

FAQs SUBMITTED BY SOLDIERS ON USAR SOCIAL MEDIA WEBSITES

QUESTION 1: How will the COVID-19 pandemic affect Soldiers’ permanent change of station (PCS) moves and temporary duty (TDY) travel?

ANSWER 1:  The Army’s temporary halt on PCS moves, based on the Secretary of Defense’s 60-day Stop Movement directive, has been extended beyond the original 11 May end date to 30 June – affecting most permanent change of station (PCS) travel for Soldiers, Department of the Army Civilians (DACs) and family members traveling to, from, or through locations designated by the CDC as Travel Health Notice Level 3 (the highest level). The Secretary of Defense will re-evaluate these restrictions on a rolling 15-day review, and will update the PCS move halt based on safety and mission requirements.

Soldiers, DACs, and their family members who have signed out of a CONUS installation en route to a CONUS location will continue PCS movement. Soldiers, DACs and their family members who have signed out of a CONUS installation en route to a foreign OCONUS location will not continue PCS movement without an approved Exception to Policy (ETP) from the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army. Soldiers, DACs and their family members assigned to a Geographic Combatant Command who have signed out of the installation location will not continue PCS movement without approved ETP from the respective Geographic Combatant Command.

More detailed information can be found at the U.S. Army Human Resources Command (HRC) website at https://www.hrc.army.mil/. For additional help and information, HRC’s Army Service Center, 1-800-582-5552, is available 24/7.  

QUESTION 2: Where can I find more information on COVID-19, how it spreads, health risks, and how to keep Soldiers, family members and the community safe?

ANSWER 2: Detailed answers to all of these questions can be found on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website’s Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Frequently Asked Questions page.

QUESTION 3: What is the difference between isolation and quarantine, and what should a Soldier do if identified for quarantine or isolation due to either personal concern or medical assessment?

ANSWER 3: Isolation separates people who are ill with a contagious disease from people who are not ill. Quarantine separates and restricts the movement of people who were exposed to a contagious disease for a period of time to determine if they will become ill. Visit the CDC website for guidance on isolation and quarantine.

MEASURES THAT SHOULD BE TAKEN TO ENSURE A SUCCESSFUL QUARANTINE

Ensure the home is equipped with everything needed for the recommended length of time (i.e. food, water, clothes, hygiene items, prescribed and over-the-counter medications, and other essentials.). The CDC has published a page with tips and information on how to prepare your family.  

For quarantine and isolation guidance specific to U.S. Army members, visit the U.S. Army Human Resources Command (HRC) website at https://www.hrc.army.mil/

QUESTION 4: How far can a Soldier travel if they are currently on leave during the stop movement period?

ANSWER 4: Soldiers may take leave only in the local area in order to limit the spread of and potential exposure to COVID-19. Exceptions may be given for compelling cases where the travel is: (1) determined to be mission essential; (2) necessary for humanitarian reasons; or (3) warranted due to extreme hardship. Each U.S. Army Reserve member should check with their unit’s chain of command for specific limitations and updates to local leave policies. For more information on Soldier leave and pass during COVID-19, see the Army COVID-19 latest guidance.

QUESTION 5: How does the current “stop movement” affect Soldiers and Department of the Army civilians (DAC) on leave, or Soldiers requesting emergency leave?

ANSWER 5: The Secretary of the Army has delegated to the first general officer (GO) or member of the senior executive service (SES) in the chain of command the authority to approve emergency leave. Soldiers are only authorized local leave as defined by local commanders.  Check with your chain of command for further guidance.

QUESTION 6: What is the policy now for Soldiers who are near their maximum allowable leave balance?

ANSWER 6: In recognition of the impact of the Department of Defense's response to COVID-19 on service members' ability to take leave and properly manage their leave balances, effective March 11, 2020, through September 30, 2020, members of the Army Reserve performing active service during the effective period are authorized to accumulate annual leave in excess of 60 days (not to exceed 120 days) as shown on the end of month September 2020 Leave and Earnings Statement. Such members are further authorized to retain such unused leave until the end of Fiscal Year 2023 (i.e., September 30, 2023).  For more information on the leave policy, see the link: https://www.milsuite.mil/book/docs/DOC-785479

QUESTION 7: How does COVID-19 policy affect Soldier PME schools?

ANSWER 7: All Master Leader Course (MLC) resident classes scheduled to start prior to 18 Jun 2020 have been converted to distance learning.  The course(s) will be conducted via the same 6-week distance learning model currently being used for the MLC-DL classes.  Soldiers with a reservation will receive a welcome letter from the schoolhouse with reporting and attendance instruction. DA Form(s) 705, 5500 and 5501 will be accepted as long as they are within one year and otherwise meet the required standard for MLC.  This course is listed on the EBDL course list and is eligible for pay though the EDBL Program.

For Army War College, the Commandant of the U.S Army War College cancelled the AY22 Distant Education Program (DEP) resident Orientation Weekends on 24-25 Apr and 01-02 May 2020.  In Lieu of the in-residency orientation weekends, all class of 2022 students are encouraged to participate in the online Blackboard version of the orientation course, DE2300 “Introduction to Strategic Leaders Education.” All enrolled AY22 students will receive a USAWC welcome email after 14 Apr 2020 with instructions on how to access their USAWC Blackboard account and participate in DE2300.

For ILE Phases 1 and 3 students enrolled in TASS ILE PH1 and PH3 classes, the classes will be conducted as distance learning on Blackboard (BB) Ultra. This will mirror the 15-day TASS resident curriculum and enable real-time interface with instructors and peers. Supporting TASS Battalions will send a welcome letter to all students 30 days prior to course start, and students will receive orders to start one day prior to class start date. The same general guidance applies for TASS ILE Phase 2, but monthly classes will be conducted over in a 4 UTA-like timeframe scheduled by the course instructor.

QUESTION 8: What should Soldiers do if they are currently on temporary duty (TDY) attending a military school or training away from home?

ANSWER 8: Soldiers are not permitted to travel to any training during the stop movement period with the exception of recruits traveling from Military Entrance Processing Stations (MEPS) through Basic Combat Training, Advanced Individual Training and back to their first unit of assignment. Soldiers with follow-on courses at their current school locations will stay and attend those follow-on courses.  Soldiers who have completed training must contact their units to coordinate travel to their home of record and remain until further notice. Soldiers who have completed a training phase and returned home, but have an upcoming reservation to attend a subsequent phase, are not authorized to travel during the stop movement period.

QUESTION 9: Can Soldiers return to their home station upon completion of their current training course?

ANSWER 9: Yes. All U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers who are based in the United States and attending military training courses will return to their home station (including Alaska, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, Guam and Hawaii) upon completion of their training course.  Commanders at echelon will determine if further quarantine procedures need to be applied upon returning to home station.

QUESTION 10: How much longer will battle assemblies be canceled?

ANSWER 10: Battle Training Assemblies are temporarily suspended until further notice.

Effective immediately, the CAR/CG authorizes the use of Virtual Battle Assemblies (VBAs) for all Army Reserve Troop Program Unit (TPU) Commands. Commanders have the authority to change VBA dates to maximize participation and make up Battle Assemblies (BAs) that were impacted by COVID-19. Until further notice, all BAs are VBAs.  Soldiers should check with their chain of command for the latest on Battle Assembly schedules. See LTG Luckey’s policy “Soldier Virtual Battle Assembly,” dated 3 April 2020, and the Virtual Battle Assembly graphic for more information about Army Reserve Virtual Battle Assemblies

QUESTION 11: Many Soldiers depend financially on pay from their Battle Assemblies. Are there alternative training opportunities for Soldiers?

ANSWER 11:  Virtual Battle Assemblies have been put in place to ensure Soldiers have the maximum means to maintain individual Soldier readiness, build resiliency, and provide stability and security to our Soldiers and families. Commanders have the authority to change VBA dates to maximize participation and make up Battle Assemblies that were impacted by COVID-19. For more information, see the Virtual Battle Assembly graphic.

Soldiers should check with their chain of command for further guidance, and commanders are encouraged to publish local policy and guidance on what type of duties are appropriate or directed for their specific unit and region.

QUESTION 12: How will I be credited for attending a VBA?

ANSWER 12: Soldiers will receive pay and credit for VBAs like battle assemblies.  Check with your chain of command for specific details and process

QUESTION 13: How do VBAs work for Soldiers completing electronic based distance learning (EBDL) courses?

ANSWER 13: Soldiers who complete coursework during a VBA that is listed as eligible for Electronic Based Distance Learning (EBDL) compensation will be paid for BA (drills).

QUESTION 14: What type of training is available during Virtual Battle Assemblies (VBAs)?

ANSWER 14: Virtual Battle Assembly Training Sources - The following are resources to utilize for VBA. VBA training is not limited to only these options.

  • Physical Training
  • Online Courses
  • Professional Development (OPD/NCOPD/SGTs Time)
  • Administrative Time
  • Army Training Network (ATN)
  • Digital Training Management System
  • Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program (YRRP) Virtual Events
  • “Strong Bonds-Fund” Soldier/Family Virtual Resiliency Training

QUESTION 15: What is the status of the APFT and ACFT during COVID-19? 

ANSWER 15: APFT testing frequency standards for all components is temporarily suspended until further notice.

  • All current valid passing APFT scores are extended until further notice.
  • Current passing APFT score and HT/WT is valid for use as the APFT and HT/WT pre-requisite for PME (enlisted and officer), functional courses, operational course credit consideration, or distant learning/education requirements.
  • Soldiers and units will continue to maintain their physical fitness readiness based on the standards associated with the APFT; and will continue to train for ACFT events while following COVID-19 mitigation measures.

QUESTION 16: What is the impact of COVID-19 travel restrictions for Reserve Component Soldiers on TRICARE and Group Life Insurance (SGLI) benefits?  

ANSWER 16: TRICARE and SGLI benefits are not impacted by changes in drill status. Payments for TRICARE Reserve Select (TRS) are paid directly by the service member’s specified credit card or bank account, not from a drill pay deduction. Soldiers are encouraged to call TRICARE experts in their region to address individual concerns and answer specific healthcare questions. More information can be found at https://tricare.mil/ContactUs/CallUs/AllContacts.  

QUESTION 17: What is the status of annual training events scheduled within the continental United States in April and May?

ANSWER 17: In accordance with the latest Department of Defense travel restrictions, most training events are suspended or postponed. Army Reserve Soldiers and Civilian employees should contact their chain of command for information on their upcoming collective training exercises.

QUESTION 18: What if the local store or commissary runs out of hand sanitizer?

ANSWER 18: The best way to sanitize your hands is to wash for at least 20 seconds with soap and hot water. If soap and water are not available, the CDC recommends the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers with greater than 60 percent ethanol or 70 percent Isopropyl Alcohol as the preferred form of hand hygiene. You can make your own hand sanitizer by using 70 to 91 percent isopropyl alcohol and aloe vera gel. Please visit: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/infection-control/hcp-hand-sanitizer.html for additional information.

QUESTION 19: How will the suspension of battle assemblies affect Army Reserve Soldiers who are trying to complete enough points toward a good retirement year?

ANSWER 19: Army Reserve Soldiers can complete a qualifying year for retirement – also known as a “good year” – without attending all scheduled battle assemblies. A retirement year is based on a Soldier’s individual anniversary date, not on calendar or fiscal years. Most Soldiers can achieve a good year, or 50 retirement points, even if they miss a limited number of authorized battle assemblies. Soldiers should check with their chain of command for the latest on Battle Assembly schedules and with their unit administrator or personnel section for an accurate calculation of current year-to-date retirement points.

However, the CAR/CG authorizes the use of Virtual Battle Assemblies (VBAs) for all Army Reserve Troop Program Unit (TPU) Commands. For more information about Army Reserve VBA, see the latest guidance in the Virtual Battle Assembly graphic.

FAQS: COVID-19 DEMOBILIZATION

Questions from U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers regarding benefits following demobilization from the COVID-19 response efforts:  

1. Concerning TRICARE coverage, what happens if a Soldier requires medical care 30 days after demobilization?  

Answer: If deployed 30 or more days on 12302 orders, the Soldier has Transitional Assistance Management Program (TAMP) coverage, which provides 180 days of premium-free, transitional health care benefits after regular TRICARE benefits end. TAMP eligibility is determined by the services and documented in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS), a database of information on uniformed service members (sponsors), U.S.-sponsored foreign military, DoD and uniformed service civilians, other personnel as directed by the DoD, and their family members. Soldiers need to register in DEERS to get TRICARE. TAMP eligibility can be viewed online via MilConnect. Service members should check with their service personnel departments for information or assistance with TAMP eligibility.
https://tricare.mil/tamp

2. Whom should a Soldier contact for assistance with correcting any errors and updating any items on their DD-214s? 

Answer: DD-214 correction requests will be made through the unit to their Reserve Personnel Action Center (RPAC) or Reserve Division (RD). Reaching out directly to the Mobilization Force Generation Installation (MFGI) is not recommended. Correcting a DD214 can be a very difficult and long process. DEMOBing Soldiers need to carefully review the document prior to signing, double checking every line of information to ensure its accuracy.  All other administrative items can/should be covered by the Unit Administrator (UA) or S1. https://www.archives.gov/veterans/military-service-records/correct-service-records.html

3. Whom can Soldiers go to for assistance with an unpaid travel voucher?

Answer: All Soldiers should check with their Defense Travel System (DTS) and/or Unit Administrators. www.defensetravel.osd.mil/

 

(Updated May 19, 2020)

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