Military Humanitarian or Compassionate Assignments
Requesting Assignments for Extreme Family Problems
It's an unfortunate truth that sometimes during a military career, a member may experience a severe family hardship which requires his/her presence to resolve, with circumstances which make resolving it with emergency leave impractical.
To help military members in such situations, each of the services has developed a program which allows military members to be re-assigned, or temporarily deferred from assignment, if they have a severe family hardship which absolutely requires their presence to resolve.
The Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard call this program Humanitarian Assignments. The Army calls their program Compassionate Assignments.
Exceptional Family Member Program
While not a component of Humanitarian/Compassionate Assignments, the Exceptional Family Member Program or EFMP warrants special mention. EFMP was developed to make sure military family members (dependents) with special needs (medical, educational, etc.), receive the special attention they require. A small part of this program is integrated into the military assignments system.
When a military member has dependents (spouse, son, daughter, step-son, step-daughter, etc.) with special needs, they are enrolled in EFMP. If the member is selected for an accompanied assignment, one of the first things that happen is the EFMP folks at the losing base contact the EFMP folks at the projected gaining base to determine if the dependent's special needs can be adequately addressed at the new location.
If not, the assignment is canceled. This ensures that military dependents are not forced to move to locations where their special needs cannot be adequately addressed, either by the military installation or in the local community.
EFMP does not restrict a member from doing his/her share of unaccompanied assignments, however, so they can still deploy.
The program merely makes sure that members aren't selected for an accompanied assignment to areas where their dependents would not get the special attention they require.
A Humanitarian Assignment is a special assignment authorized to alleviate a hardship so severe an emergency leave cannot fully resolve it. While each of the services has different procedures, there are some requirements which are common to all the branches.
To qualify for a Humanitarian Assignment consideration, a military member must have a documented and substantiated problem involving a family member, which is significantly more severe than other military members experience. "Family Member" is generally defined as spouse, child, father, mother, father-in-law, mother-in-law, person in loco parentis or other persons residing in the household who are dependent for over half of their financial support. In the Coast Guard, father-in-law, and mother-in-law do not qualify as family members for the purposes of Humanitarian Assignments.
The problem must be able to be resolved within a specific time-frame (six months to two years, depending on the branch of service). Military members are expected to be available for worldwide assignment, at all times, according to the needs of the service.
That's a large part of why they get a paycheck. For those who have a permanent or prolonged family problem which prevents reassignment, humanitarian discharge is generally the appropriate action.
The Comptroller General has ruled that the military services cannot fund an assignment relocation for humanitarian reasons only. That means there must be a valid slot at the gaining base for the person's rank and job. For example, the Air Force would not be able to reassign an F-15 Fighter Aircraft Mechanic to a base that does not have slots for F-15 Fighter Aircraft Mechanics. However, sometimes a service will allow a member to re-train into a different job, in order to fill a required slot at the Humanitarian Assignment Location.
Army Compassionate Action Requests
The Army calls their Humanitarian Assignment Program "Compassionate Action Requests." Compassionate actions are requests from individual soldiers when personal problems exist.
The two types of compassionate requests are when personal problems are:
- Temporary (resolvable within a year).
- Not expected to be resolved within a year.
A reassignment may be authorized when there are extreme family problems and the soldier's presence is needed. A soldier may get a deletion or deferment from an overseas assignment if the problem requires them to stay in the U.S. for a short time.
If the problem is chronic or can't be resolved in a short amount of time, a compassionate discharge procedure is generally the most appropriate action. Consideration for reassignment may be given in cases of extreme family problems that are not expected to be resolved within a year if it meets the needs of the Army.
Requests are made on DA Form 3739, Application for Assignment/Deletion/Deferment for Extreme Family Problems submitted through the chain of command. This must be done by the soldier. Commanders can disapprove compassionate requests when they clearly do not meet the prerequisites. The Army Personnel Command has approval authority for compassionate reassignment.
Criteria for Compassionate Action
- The soldier needs to be present to resolve the problem, and it can't be done with leave.
- The problem cannot have been foreseen when the soldier last entered active duty.
- A family member includes spouse, child, parent, minor brother or sister, person in loco parentis, or the only living blood relative of the soldier. If not one of those people, they must be documented as a dependent or, in the case of parents-in-law, no other member of the spouse's family can help.
- For reassignment, a job (MOS) of the correct rank must be available at the requested installation.
- A pending assignment may be deferred until the request is decided. However, soldiers in basic training will not be deferred from AIT pending the results.
- The problem must be temporary and resolvable within one year, although longer deferments are sometimes approved.
Examples of Requests That Are Normally Approved
- Death, rape, or severe psychotic episode of your spouse or minor child.
- Terminal illness of an immediate family member whose doctor documents they are expected to pass within 12 months.
- Major surgery for spouse or minor child which will have 12 months or less of recovery time.
- If you were separated from your family due to military service (not negligence or misconduct) and your children are being placed in foster care.
- Adoption if the child is being placed within 90 days and the adoption was initiated before notification of reassignment.
- Soldiers en route from an accompanied OCONUS tour to an unaccompanied OCONUS tour may be deferred for up to 30 days. The deferment is for settlement of family when the soldier's presence is required for unforeseen problems.
- A recent death of other family members with extenuating circumstances.
Examples of Requests That Are Normally Not Approved
- You want to move to a new area.
- Divorce or separation and legal actions relating to it, including child custody.
- Gaining child custody in a divorce.
- Sole parenthood.
- Spouse's difficult pregnancy.
- Family member's allergies.
- Housing problems.
- Financial problems.
- Chronic problems relating to parents or parents-in-law.
If a compassionate action request is disapproved, a soldier may only request reconsideration for the same family emergency one time. If that is disapproved, there will be no further reconsideration.
For complete details about the Army's Compassionate Assignments Program, see Army Regulation 614-200, Enlisted Assignments and Utilization Management, paragraph 5-8.
More Humanitarian Assignments
An Air Force reassignment program might be able to help airmen whose families are experiencing a long distance crises. If they qualify, those troops can use the program for an extra military move or to stay at their current location.
The Humanitarian Reassignment and Deferment Program, run by the Air Force Personnel Center, assists active-duty airmen in resolving severe, short-term problems involving a family member while airmen continue to meet the needs of the Air Force.
"The spirit and intent of the program is to place the airman at the closest location to where the problem exists," said Kimberly Schuler, Humanitarian Assignment Policy chief. "Typically, a reassignment or deferment is a one-time action to resolve a critical problem with a family member within a reasonable period of time, normally 12 months."
The definition of "family member" for the Humanitarian Program is limited to spouse; child; parents, to include in-laws and stepparents; person in loco parentis; or other persons actually residing in the household who are dependent on the airman for more than half of their financial support.
"We often get asked about siblings," Schuler said. "That's always a tough one because siblings aren't within the scope of the definition of 'family member.' However, if the sibling is terminally ill, we'll look at the request as an exception to policy."
In a case that requires a long-term solution, an airman would have to look at other options, she said.
"The Humanitarian Program is a temporary solution to a short-term problem and the Air Force is unable to consider a permanent or prolonged deferment."
The comptroller general has ruled that the Air Force cannot make moves at government expense based solely on humanitarian reasons. The reassignment or deferment must be to meet Air Force mission needs in addition to helping the airman. Therefore, a valid vacancy must exist at the gaining base and the airman must meet retainability requirements for a permanent change of station.
Schuler's team in AFPC's Military Assignment Programs Branch, along with a team of six case managers in the Assignment Support Section and 11 Total Force Service Center Assignment technicians processes approximately 1,000 requests annually to expedite assistance to airmen in need.
Humanitarian reassignment or deferment is not limited to a single reason. Circumstances can include the terminal illness of a family member, the death of an airman's spouse or child, the sexual assault of the airman's spouse or child, or issues involving a serious financial impact such as the loss of property through fire or natural disaster.
"The reason doesn't have to fit into a box," Schuler said.
In each situation, the AFPC Medical Review Board or the AFPC Administrative Law Office reviews requests for verification of clinical data submitted with an application or for the verification of legal documentation. Careful consideration goes into the adjudication of each request, as these airmen are normally in a crisis and deserve the most compassionate eyes possible on their situation.
"It's not just personnelists making the decision," Schuler said. "It's a whole system of checks and balances. The entire team looks at the whole-person concept. We look at each situation as if we were in that airman's shoes and view the circumstances with empathy and kindness."
Missing documentation can delay the process, which is normally about two to four weeks. Schuler said the more supporting documentation the airman can provide about every aspect of the situation, the better, as it paints a clearer picture of the scope of the problem. Burden of proof is on the member to prove that their situation is more than what an average airman is going through.
"Everyone has a tipping point, so we weigh everything--everything--happening in that airman's life to determine the best course of action," she said.
Currently, 2,916 airmen are directly benefiting from humanitarian assignments at bases across the Air Force. However, if the airman's application does not meet the threshold for an approval under the Humanitarian Program, the case managers take the extra step to research if the airman may be eligible for another alternative assignment option.
"Perhaps the airman can apply for a Base of Preference or a follow-on assignment," Schuler said. "Or maybe they don't meet the requirements right now, but if something changes, they can reapply. We try to manage their expectations and provide resources instead of just simply saying, 'Denied.'"
Schuler's team is also working on improvements to the application process to make it more intuitive. Two efficiencies they would like to implement include a "delivery" status bar, visible to customers in the virtual Military Personnel Flight, and a defined set of statuses with detailed explanations of the application process.
To help airmen navigate those resources, Schuler's team hosts recurring webcasts on the Humanitarian Reassignment and Deferment Program. The next webinar for all airman is scheduled for Sept. 27, 2017 at 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Central Daylight Time.
Additionally, airmen can chat with a personnel specialist live on myPers about the humanitarian program between the hours of 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. CDT. To access the chat feature, click on the Humanitarian/EFMP link under "Assignment Programs" on the active-duty myPers Assignment landing page, hover the mouse cursor for 30 seconds and a chat window will appear.
For more information about Air Force personnel programs, visit myPers. Individuals who do not have a myPers account can request one by following the instructions on the Air Force's Personnel Center website.
Military.com contributed to this article.Show Full Article
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