Use it or lose it: Changes to Air Force leave policy arrive this year
JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii -- The warning on January's Leave and Earning Statement is clear -- "Important: Manage your leave. On 1 Oct 15, you will lose all accrued leave over 60 days unless special leave accrual applies."
Air Force active duty, active guard and reserve members with more than 60 days of leave have less than eight months to use or lose those days as a result of changes in leave policy.
Since October 2008, high operations tempo in the Air Force drove the implementation of a temporary leave carryover extension provision that allowed Air Force members to carryover 75 days of leave to the next fiscal year without incurring a loss, but as of Sept. 30, or the end of fiscal year 2015, the provision expires, bringing the leave cap down to 60.
"I don't see any indication of it being extended at this time," said Derek Salis, Pacific Air Forces chief of enlisted promotions and customer support. "Consequently, if [Airmen] don't prepare by planning on using leave between now and Sept. 30, they will lose it."
Airmen may be eligible for Special Leave Accrual entitlements if they faced situations caused by a catastrophe, national emergency or crisis, or operations in defense of national security that prevented them from reducing their leave balance before the end of FY15.
"SLA is not automatic, it must be requested," Salis said. "Additional information can be found in AFI 36-3003 [Military Leave Program], or members can talk to their servicing [Military Personnel Section] customer service."
Another option for Airmen is to sell leave back to the service. For each day of leave sold back, they'll be paid a day's worth of basic pay. With this option, Airmen are only allowed to sell back 60 days.
Salis said enlisted members may sell back leave upon reenlistment or entering the first extension of an enlistment.
"There are also provisions ... that allow a one-time SLA sell back, to be sold at any time, which is authorized for enlisted members who would lose leave accumulated in excess of 120 days," Salis said. "Officers may only sell leave prior to a retirement or separation."
Master Sgt. Marija Showalter, PACAF command military pay manager, noted the importance of knowing the accurate balance of leave come Sept. 30.
As the military payment system has not yet been programmed to show the updated use/lose changes, the use/lose block on Leave and Earnings Statements may not reflect the accurate number of days a member is projected to lose. Currently, members wanting to know their actual use/lose leave balance need to look at their current leave balance and do the calculations necessary to arrive at the correct use/lose balance, she said.
"Leave Web may not provide you with the most up to date information," Showalter said.
While calculating the number of leave days before the end of the fiscal year, Airmen should also ensure they factor in the amount of leave they will earn up until the end of September, which accumulates at 2.5 days per month.
For information about the military leave program visit the myPers website at https://mypers.af.mil or consult with your local finance office or MPS.