DoD’s ‘Deploy or Get Out’ Policy Takes Effect Bringing Uncertainty to More Than 200,000 Troops and Their Families

A much-anticipated new policy cracking down on the number of service members unable to deploy went into effect this week. As of October 1, DoD says troops can either get fit for duty or get out. The policy states service members who’ve been non-deployable for 12 months or more will be booted out of the military under administrative or disability separation.

The purpose of the new policy is to maintain a lethal fighting force while ensuring the deployment load is shared by all. That generally seems reasonable, but how is DoD treating those being asked to leave?

"Service members and their families hoping to make the military a career, or who planned to stay through their current term of enlistment, suddenly must upend those plans—a hit they weren’t expecting," said NMFA Executive Director Joyce Wessel Raezer. "Getting that notice while already dealing with the consequences of a deployment or injury is a bigger blow."

Watching a fellow military family go through an un-planned separation will create anxiety for every other family in the unit. Will spouses wonder if their service member’s busted knee might give… ending their military life overnight? Will service members hesitate to get appropriate care because they’ll worry about the consequences?

Earlier this year, DoD estimated 235,000 active duty service members, including reservists and National Guardsman were non-deployable.

There are many unanswered questions, but here’s what we do know:

The policy is being managed within each branch of the military. Service members who are pregnant or recently gave birth are exempt from the new policy. Military OneSource services will be available for up to one year post-service, but health care eligibility is more complex. If a service member is eligible for a medical retirement, their benefits will be no different than a regular retiree. However, when a service member is involuntarily separated under honorable conditions, sponsors and eligible family members may receive 180 days of TRICARE coverage through the Transitional Assistance Management Program (TAMP).

"Focusing on deployability is the right thing to do for readiness," said Raezer. "But troops and their families will watch how DoD treats people it deems no longer deployable…and they all know they could be the next ones dealing with an injury."

NMFA will continue to engage with DoD on behalf of the military families who will be impacted by the new retention policy. If you believe your service member may be affected, we want to hear your concerns. How might this policy impact your military family? What resources and information will you need to prepare for a transition you didn’t see coming?

Posted October 3, 2018

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