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The 2020 COVID-19 Special Leave Accrual – What You Need to Know

The Secretary of Defense authorized special leave accrual in April 2020 for all service members due to the extensive travel restrictions implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic; prevented many members from taking leave.

The accrual authorization was effective between March 11 and Sept. 30, 2020. As a result, service members with accumulated leave over 60 days during that time are allowed to retain up to 120 days of accrued leave until Sept. 30, 2023.

Each year, all active-duty service members earn 30 days of leave. Normally at the end of each fiscal year, any unused leave exceeding 60 days is lost. For all service members, 2020 was different. With the leniency granted due to the pandemic travel restrictions, the authority allows affected service members to carry leave balances of up to 120 days with a “use or lose” date of Sept. 30, 2023. That means, beyond that date, any days protected under this COVID-19 SLA authorization
will be lost and service members will be limited to the 60 days of leave roll-over authorized by law.

Any days earned after Sept. 30, 2020, are not protected by this authority and are subject to the normal 60-day accrual limit. Service members who had less than 60 days of leave on the books as of Sept 30, 2020, were not affected by this special accrual. The COVID-19 leave accrual comes in addition to any other special leave accrual authority service members are entitled to under other authorities. Leave accrual is automatically tracked by the Defense Finance and Accounting Service. With this in mind, service members should be aware that leave accountability operates on a last-in-firstout basis. When leave is taken, service members are charged their most recently
earned leave.

Those with extra allowed leave accrued under this policy can find it noted on their Leave and Earnings Statement (LES) in the remarks section as “CZ leave carryover bal” along with the expiration date. “CZ leave carryover bal” will only decrease if a service member takes more leave than has been earned in the year. For example, as of May 1, 2021, in the case of service members who have earned 20 days of leave; if more than 20 days of leave have been used during the fiscal year, then the “CZ leave carryover bal” will be decreased by the amount of days over 20, permanently lowering the “CZ leave carryover bal”. “CZ leave carryover bal” cannot be re-earned as the Secretary of Defense has not, at this time, authorized special leave accrual for this fiscal year due to COVID-19.

This remark will no longer appear on an LES once an accrued leave balance is reduced to 60 days or less, or when the expiration date is passed. However, this accrual’s effective dates and expiration do not affect leave accrued and are protected under separate authorizations. This includes leave earned by service members during eligible deployments to hostile fire pay (HFP) or imminent danger pay (IDP) zones.

For more information on military pay entitlements, and instructions on how to read an LES go to https://www.dfas.mil/MilitaryMembers/payentitlements/aboutpay/.

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