Expanded Military Parental Leave Program
On January 4, 2023, the Department of Defense Military Parental Leave program was upgraded to allow up to more time on parental leave and expand the opportunities to take it.
In the past DoD policy allowed a birth parent to take six weeks of convalescent leave. There was no provision for the “non-birthing parent” to take similar leave. That all changed with the expanded policy.
What is in the DoD Military Family Leave Policy?
According to a DoD memo issued on Defense.gov, the expanded Military Family Leave policy includes the following:
- Parental leave to active and Reserve service members on active duty for 12 months or more who have given birth, adopted a child or had a child placed with them.
- Birth parents get 12 weeks of parental leave following a period of convalescent leave
- “Non-birth parents” are allowed 12 weeks of leave following the birth of their child.
- Adoptive parents and eligible foster parents also qualify for 12 weeks of parental leave.
DoD policy for adoption includes this caveat, from the memorandum that established the enhanced leave policy:
“A member is not authorized an additional 12 weeks of parental leave when the placement of a minor child with the member for adoption is finalized as an adoption by the member of a minor child already residing within the member’s household.”
That is a rule that won’t apply to many who use the Military Parental Leave program, but for those who the guideline applies to, it’s a very important aspect of the program.
A Word About Convalescent Maternity Leave
Under the enhanced policy, the birth parent gets 12 weeks of parental leave (see above) which the DoD memorandum says is authorized “following a period of convalescence from childbirth” which raises the question–how is convalescent leave authorized under the policy?
“Convalescent leave may be authorized for the recovery of the birth parent from giving birth if such leave is specifically recommended, in writing, by the health care provider of the birth parent to address a diagnosed medical condition and is approved by the unit commander” according to the Defense Department memo.
Convalescent leave “immediately following childbirth must be used in a single increment, and that leave must begin a day after the birth of the child. Then, “twelve weeks of parental leave will be authorized during the 1-year period beginning on the date of birth of the child. Parental leave will be taken following any period of convalescent leave”
How the Policy Applies to Surrogates
Some have questions about this policy as it might be applicable to the use of a surrogate mother. In such cases, DoD guidelines state clearly, “If a member (or a dual military couple) uses a surrogate and they become the legal parent(s) of a newborn child, the event will be treated as an adoption and will be authorized 12 weeks of parental leave.”
Who Does the Expanded Policy Apply to?
According to the DoD, the expanded policy applies to active duty, Guard and Reserve, across all services including the Coast Guard. Those with children born or placed in the home on or after December 27, 2022, are affected by the expanded policy.
The 12 weeks of Military Parental Leave authorized in the enhanced policy are offered in the first year of the new child’s life, and certain restrictions apply. For example, you cannot share this leave with another person, even if the other person is a spouse in a “mil-to-mil” couple.
What About Those on Parental Leave Before the Change?
When the Defense Department drafted its memorandum announcing the enhanced family leave policy, it included mention of those who were on maternity leave prior to the start of the new policy.
Those on caregiver or maternity leave before December 27, 2022, who did not use all their leave, “…will transition to leave under the new policy without any loss of benefit and will receive the expanded benefit.” For some that may mean extra leave, for others the transition may be completely transparent.
About the author
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.