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New Bereavement Leave Policy for Active Duty, Guard and Reserve

In late March 2023, the Department of Defense announced a “new non-chargeable, paid bereavement leave benefit for service members who suffer the loss of their spouses or children.”

Why a DoD Bereavement Leave Policy Was Created

According to a DoD press release, the motivation for creating this type of leave included honoring the needs of servicemembers during their most difficult times.

“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.”

Under the policy, service members may take up to two weeks of leave “in connection with the death of a service member’s spouse or child, consistent with operational requirements,” according to DoD literature.

This new leave is authorized by the National Defense Authorization Act of 2022 and became effective as of March 29, 2023.

Related: SecDef Announces Military Quality of Life Programs

How the DoD Bereavement Leave Policy Works

Active duty, Guard, and Reserve members active duty for longer than 12 months “who experience the death of a spouse or child” and who have “fewer than 30 days of accrued ordinary leave on the date of the death” may qualify for up to 14 days of bereavement leave.

  • By law, this benefit is only offered to qualifying service members with accrued leave balances below 30 days.
  • Service members with a leave balance at or above 30 days, “may take chargeable emergency leave as they would in the past.
  • While on emergency leave, if the leave balance falls below 30 days, the service member becomes “eligible for the bereavement leave benefit of up to 14 days.”
  • A service member who took emergency leave “in connection with the death of a spouse or child” after the effective date of the new policy but before their military service releases its bereavement leave policy may qualify to have the emergency leave days (up to 14 days) restored to the leave balance “if the service member would have been eligible for bereavement leave.”
  • This bereavement leave benefit applies retroactively in some cases.

The phrase “non-chargeable leave” is important. Service members taking this bereavement leave won’t have it counted against existing leave balances used for vacation, personal matters, etc.

Non-chargeable leave is also permitted in various circumstances, including time off for medical care, recovering from surgery, maternity leave, etc. Each military branch will have its own version of the new bereavement policy; troops are encouraged to contact their command support staff, First Sergeant, Command Sergeant Major, or Detailer for more information.

Related: Comprehensive Military Benefits Guide

About the author

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Editor-in-Chief Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter/editor for Air Force Television News and the Pentagon Channel. His freelance work includes contract work for Motorola, VALoans.com, and Credit Karma. He is co-founder of Dim Art House in Springfield, Illinois, and spends his non-writing time as an abstract painter, independent publisher, and occasional filmmaker.