American Legion Daily News Clips 3.27.20

Good morning Legionnaires and veterans advocates, today is Friday, March 27, 2020. My apologies for the lack of clips yesterday, I was unable to send them from home for some reason, and we are currently on a lockdown in Indiana. (I snuck in today to do it.)

This Weekend in Legion History:

  • March 28, 1919: Stars and Stripes publishes the first story in which “The American Legion” is named as an organization of wartime veterans.
  • March 28, 1934: The Legion records one of its most significant legislative victories ever by driving forward Public Law 141, which is vetoed by President Roosevelt but later overridden by Congress, protecting disabled veterans and their benefits from federal budget cuts under the Economy Act.
  • March 28, 2000: Contributions from The American Legion Family – The American Legion, American Legion Auxiliary and Sons of The American Legion – stand at over $2.7 million to help build a new National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. By the end of the year, the figure will exceed $3.4 million.

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

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Military Times: Confusion surrounds VA’s community care offerings after talk of program pause

Leo Shane III
1 day ago
Veterans Affairs officials are scrambling to explain what is happening with their community care offerings — President Donald Trump’s self-proclaimed signature achievement for veterans — after Capitol Hill staffers were told this week the program is facing a 90-day “strategic pause” because of the coronavirus outbreak.
On Wednesday, Veterans Affairs officials denied that major changes are coming to the outside care programs, which allow veterans to seek private-sector medical appointments paid for by VA funds.
But they also acknowledged that some new applicants who should be automatically enrolled in the program may be denied in the name of safety, a move which some advocates have suggested may be outside the department’s authority.
The community care program has been a major point of controversy in recent years for the department, which critics deriding it as a slow abdication of core of VA responsibilities to the private sector. VA estimates more than 1.5 million veterans will use the program for some medical appointments this year.
The confusion around the program stems from a message sent to congressional offices this week from Veterans Health Administration officials announcing they are considering “a temporary strategic pause in the MISSION Act access standards for 90 days, or until the soonest possible time that routine care may safely resume” because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“Completing non-urgent and routine health care appointments to meet access standards puts veterans at risk of contracting COVID-19 and also uses valuable healthcare resources that need to be conserved to respond to COVID-19,” the note from senior VA health officials said. “This is true for both VA and community healthcare providers.”
The news brought immediate concern from advocates who have pushed for years to broaden the community care program, arguing that VA does not have the capacity to see every veteran on a timely basis.
Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jerry Moran said he has “serious concerns” about the idea of a temporary pause.
“When the VA cannot provide care to veterans, the VA is required under MISSION Act to send them to the community,” he said in a statement.
“As the VA’s role in the COVID-19 response grows … veterans should be able to continue accessing community care, which will keep them closer to home, prevent unnecessary exposure at larger VA Medical Centers and free up VA resources to fight COVID-19.”
But following the uproar, department officials insisted that the program is not being halted. VA press secretary Christina Mandreucci said the department “is not stopping or pausing the law, but ensuring the best medical interests of veterans are met.”
VA community care referrals for emergent or urgent clinical needs will proceed unchanged, and veterans with outside care appointments currently scheduled “should continue with this care as clinically appropriate and if available.”
However, Mandreucci said new cases “will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis for immediate clinical need and with regard to the safety of the veteran.” That plan will be in case even if veterans automatically qualify for outside care, because of significant wait times or travel distances with available VA facilities.
Nate Anderson, executive director of Concerned Veterans for America — a vocal proponent of the community care expansion — said those new restrictions go against Trump’s promises to broaden care options.
“VA should be working to remove barriers between veterans and their health care, not creating new barriers,” he said. “A blanket approach like the VA has proposed does not account for the unique circumstances facing many communities and their respective medical systems.”
In a separate message to veterans service organizations Wednesday, VA leadership said the original congressional guidance “was sent with good intent and out of an abundance of clinical caution, but the guidance lacked all the requisite concurrences prior to being transmitted to the field,” seemingly walking back the 90-day pause.
Both Moran and House Veterans’ Affairs Committee ranking member Phil Roe, R-Tenn., promised further investigation into the VA plan. Mandreucci said the new measures will be reassessed next month to determine whether changes need to be made.
“VA’s actions are in line with current Center for Disease Control recommendations and are necessary to help protect veterans from unnecessary COVID-19 exposure,” she said. “Many community health care systems are taking the same approach, and we anticipate less capacity in the community for routine care in an effort to limit foot traffic in their facilities and help stop the spread of COVID-19.”
Nationwide, more than 54,000 individuals have tested positive for coronavirus. VA officials said they have seen 365 cases among their patients, and four deaths.
NYT:V.A. Criticized for Effort to Keep Some Veterans Away From Private Care During Outbreak
By Wednesday morning, the White House sought to correct the impression that the department was putting a pause on the Mission Act.
By Jennifer Steinhauer
March 25, 2020

WASHINGTON — An effort by the Department of Veterans Affairs to prevent some veterans from seeking health care outside its centers drew heavy criticism from lawmakers and a vocal Fox News ally of the president, who suggested the department’s bureaucracy could undermine a signature program of President Trump’s term.
That program, known as the Mission Act, permits veterans to seek primary care and mental health services outside the department’s system if they can prove they must drive at least 30 minutes to a Department of Veterans Affairs facility. The network of private providers and urgent care centers had been slowly expanding this year as those standards went into effect.
But concerns arose that at-risk veterans seeking outside care could expose themselves to the coronavirus or tax strained private health care resources.
So this week, a department official emailed the House and Senate committees on veterans’ affairs to say the department “proposes a temporary strategic pause in the Mission Act access standards for 90 days, or until the soonest possible time that routine care may safely resume.” The email said that “enforcement of the access standards will resume when routine care resumes.”
Reacting to news of the pause, Pete Hegseth, a Fox News host close to Mr. Trump, said on Twitter late Tuesday, “If true, this is a terrible decision by @DeptVetAffairs leadership that will only hurt vets.”
“At a moment like this, vets deserve MORE health care options — not less. @realdonaldtrump needs to stop this,” he added.
Mr. Hegseth speaks regularly with Mr. Trump about issues concerning the Department of Veterans Affairs, which he was once under consideration to lead.
By Wednesday morning, the White House sought to correct the impression that Robert L. Wilkie, the veterans secretary, was putting a pause on the Mission Act.
“Secretary Wilkie and the V.A. team are working to protect those who have worn the uniform against unnecessary exposure to the coronavirus while ensuring V.A. upholds the president’s priorities included in the Mission Act,” Devin O’Malley, a spokesman for the White House’s coronavirus task force, wrote in an email. “By issuing this guidance, the V.A. is not stopping or pausing the law, but rather ensuring the best medical interests of America’s veterans are met.”
At least four veterans have died from the coronavirus so far, and as of Wednesday, 365 have been sickened.
Christina Mandreucci, a spokeswoman for the department, said that while there would be no “pause,” it would review requested referrals for nonemergency care “on a case-by-case basis for immediate clinical need and with regard to the safety of the veteran when being seen in-person, regardless of wait time or drive time eligibility.”
Proponents of the law expressed unhappiness.
“I have serious concerns with the V.A. putting a temporary pause on community care,” said Senator Jerry Moran, Republican of Kansas and the chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “When the V.A. cannot provide care to veterans, the V.A. is required under the Mission Act to send them to the community.”
The Mission Act has been strongly supported by the Concerned Veterans for America, a group that generally espouses conservative views and has influenced veterans’ policies under Mr. Trump.
“We urge the V.A. not to proceed with any policy proposal that would limit the ability of veterans to access care in the community if they believe it is the best option for them and capacity is available,” said Nate Anderson, the group’s executive director.
The two companies that the department has chosen to manage a network of health care providers and urgent care centers for veterans, Optum and TriWest, are introducing services across the country through a phased process, with completion scheduled this summer.
Representative Phil Roe, Republican of Tennessee, said he was seeking more guidance from Mr. Wilkie “about how and why V.A. made this decision and how veterans will continue to be cared for throughout this crisis, in V.A. and in the community.”
In addition to serving veterans, the department is legally designated as the backup health care system in national emergencies. But that function, known as the fourth mission, has yet to be activated, which is also drawing attention from Capitol Hill.
“While the Department of Veterans Affairs’ first priority will always be our nation’s veterans, we need all hands on deck when it comes to saving lives during this emergency,” said Senator Jon Tester of Montana, the highest-ranking Democrat on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “Any further delay in allowing V.A. to fulfill its fourth mission will undoubtedly result in the deaths of Americans who are dependent on their government to act swiftly on their behalf.”

Military Times: VA Secretary pledges public coronavirus response won’t compromise focus on veterans

Leo Shane III
17 hours ago
Even as Veterans Affairs staffers prepare to deploy outside their hospitals to help with the national response to the fast-spreading coronavirus, Secretary Robert Wilkie is promising that the department’s first focus will always be caring for veterans.
“We don’t release any beds if veterans are needing them,” Wilkie said in an interview with Military Times on Thursday. “The veterans still are primary. We are a (health) bridge for the larger community, but that’s only after veterans are taking care of.”
Wilkie’s comments come as White House officials are in discussion with senior VA leaders about the department’s fourth mission — to provide medical assistance and personnel to civilian health systems in the event of national emergencies.
That has been invoked in the past for natural disasters in localized areas, but not on the scale of the coronavirus pandemic, which has spread across the United States in the last two weeks from fewer than 1,000 cases to now more than 54,000.
VA’s own number of coronavirus cases has jumped too, up nearly one-third from Wednesday to today. The department has 484 patients who have tested positive, but outside advocates have said they believe the number is much higher.
Wilkie said he expects that number to continue to climb too.
But despite reports of shortages in personal protective equipment at various VA medical sites, Wilkie said he has confidence the sprawling federal health care system has the resources to respond to the problem.
“We started preparing for this in February,” he said. “And what we’re able to do is move resources across the country (as needed).
“There are entire swaths of the country that have not yet been impacted by this, and certainly some veterans hospitals that have not been impacted. So I’m not going to keep 500 respirators in the middle of a state that has one veteran with the infection, when I can use that in Seattle or New Orleans or New York city.”
Wilkie said that flexibility will allow VA to get resources assigned to hard-hit areas, then move them out once the worst is over. Cancelling elective procedures across the health care system has also freed up thousands of hospital beds.
At least 75 VA staffers have tested positive for coronavirus, but the secretary insists that “we’re not putting any of our employees at unnecessary risk” during the pandemic response.
“They understand the medical mission better than anyone,” he said. “I sit down and go through every day with our medical people, every region in the country, and we’re constantly reviewing the status of our staffing. I hear from the network directors on a daily basis and we’re asking them to tell us if they think something needs to be addressed.”
The secretary pushed back on news reports that the existing community care appointments are being curtailed, but acknowledged that many new requests for meetings with outside physicians could be delayed or denied because of health and safety concerns in local communities.
He said those won’t involve cases of imminent need, and VA will continue to keep veterans safe.
One thing that will help with looming shortfalls — “there will be some gaps,” Wilkie acknowledged — is $19.6 billion in emergency funding expected to be approved by Congress later this week. The majority of that is direct care funding for VA medical centers and staffing, and about $3 billion is set aside for new telehealth services.
Wilkie said that money will be key, because VA is already discouraging veterans from traveling to department facilities unless absolutely necessary. The influx of new telehealth funding should dramatically broaden VA offerings in coming weeks, to include more online mental health consultations and easier access to doctor’s appointments through home computers.
Calls to the department’s suicide hotline have increased about 12 percent in recent weeks, but Wilkie said most of that jump is not related more thoughts of self-harm and depression.
“We’ve had to act as an extra resource in the event that veterans feel they’re not getting general information about what is going on around them from local authorities,” he said. “So we have answered a lot of questions about basic veterans care and grocery stores and things like that. And we try to answer those as best we can.”
But Wilkie said he is worried that mandated isolation and widespread panic over the coronavirus could cause complications for veterans already dealing with mental health issues. A year-long report on new suicide prevention work was set to be released by the end of this month, but the ongoing pandemic response has delayed that announcement.
For now, the secretary is asking veterans to stay calm, listen to local authorities on quarantine restrictions and reach out to the department if they have questions.
“We’ve sent out over 40 million individual communications — texts, emails, phone calls, letters — to veterans and also to families and caregivers across the country,” he said. “We’re keep them up to speed on the status of this crisis. We want them to protect themselves right now.
“If they feel bad, call us. We will act on that.”

Fox News: Coronavirus cause for concern among burn pit veterans

By Perry Chiaramonte | Fox News
The coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc across the country, especially among those with chronic respiratory problems and compromised immune systems.
These include 9/11 first responders and veterans who were exposed to the toxic plumes that emanated from burn pits. Both groups constitute large parts of a population living with a higher risk of serious complications from COVID-19.
“We are taking a lot of caution,” said Will Thompson, a veteran from West Virginia, who had a double lung transplant in the past decade due to his exposure to burn pits in Mosul, Iraq.
“I have had, from my transplant doctors to my VA doctor to my primary care physician, have all called me and said, ‘Do not leave your house whatsoever,’ because, you know, for me, it’s a no-brainer. If I get it, I’m pretty much on the losing end of it, unless God intervenes.”
Thompson served two tours of duty and was exposed to burn pits, which were used at a majority of U.S. military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan to get rid of waste and garbage. The veteran said that he started experiencing problems while on his second tour, in 2009.
“While I was over there, I started having issues with coughing. My doctors there thought it was just allergies,” he says. “Got back to Fort Stewart in Georgia and they thought I had pneumonia. They gave me antibiotics and sent me home. My doctor gave me an MRI and found a lot of severe lung damage. I was sent to Walter Reed [Army Medical Center] and spent the next six months there.”
During that stay, after a biopsy, Thompson found out his lungs were filled with titanium, magnesium and iron.
Thompson has used caution and played it extra safe amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“I have not left my house since last Friday,” he told Fox News. “My wife, who is a nurse, is also concerning for us. She’s now trying to think of ways to work from home because she’s scared that if she goes to work, she might bring something home to me.”
He explained she has groceries delivered and picks them up curbside to limit interaction with others. She also wipes the bags in the car, bringing in items a few at a time and wiping each down with rubbing alcohol.
“My wife is the barrier between me and the outside world,” Thompson said. “So when she comes home … she has to come to our breezeway and automatically change clothes or go into the shower, get clean and then get redressed again just to make sure that she doesn’t bring anything into the house.”
The Investigative Unit at Fox News has reported extensively on veterans made sick from their exposure to burn pits. Many soldiers, like Thompson, said the pits were a crude method of incineration in which every piece of waste was burned, including plastics, batteries, appliances, medicine, dead animals and even human waste. The items often were set ablaze with jet fuel as the accelerant and the pits burned more than 1,000 different chemical compounds day and night. Most service members breathed in toxic fumes with no protection.
Many veterans have developed myriad respiratory issues and other serious ailments believed to be a result of burn pit exposure. Many are immuno-compromised and face an increased vulnerability to COVID-19.
“If you had burn pit exposed lungs and you have more respiratory inflammation on a normal day, you have more vulnerability to the virus once it hits your lungs. So it’s a very good time to avoid, avoid, avoid getting infected,” Dr. Nancy Klimas, director of Institute for Neuro-Immune Medicine at Florida’s Nova Southeastern University said. She added that veterans who suffer from burn pit exposure may not have any greater vulnerability but that they should take extra precautions to prevent getting infected.
“Once infected, they have a greater risk of having a more serious form of the illness,” said Klimas, who researched illnesses associated with Gulf War Syndrome.
A registry was created by the Veterans Administration in 2011 but signing it does not guarantee assistance.
Service members and their families concerned with the effects of burn pit exposure say they struggle to keep up with the high cost of medical treatments. There are more than 180,000 names signed to the VA registry, but it is estimated that 3.5 million veterans have been exposed to burn pits.
At the end of 2019, advocacy groups, like Burn Pits 360, made real headway in Washington with new legislation to provide relief, but momentum has stalled, at least for now.
“It’s frustrating because over the last few months we’ve had several meetings in D.C. and now we have to wait and see how long this is going to take us to get back on track,” said John Feal, a 9/11 advocate whose Feal Good Foundation worked recently with Burn Pits 360 with lobbying efforts. They were due in Washington along with Jon Stewart to finalize the two pieces of legislation on Capitol Hill.
“But we are all going to get back on track. And, you know, I’m not one to like to wait. I get a little frustrated. My mindset is to go forward, never backward. But we serve no use if we get sick, we are no good if we’re not in the game.”

Arizona Republic: Protesters in Mexico block lanes at Arizona border crossing to demand stricter coronavirus screenings

By Rafael Carranza / Arizona Republic
Posted Mar 26, 2020 at 8:52 AM

TUCSON, Ariz. — Protesters on the Mexican side of the border blocked the Mexico-bound lanes in the twin border cities of Ambos Nogales for several hours Wednesday to express their displeasure with the Mexican government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The protesters demanded greater controls and screenings on southbound traffic at the U.S.-Mexico border out of concern that travelers from the U.S. could import new cases of the coronavirus into Mexico.
Less than a dozen people wearing face masks and carrying signs used two of their vehicles for a blockade of the two southbound lanes at the DeConcini crossing, several hundred feet into the Mexican side of the border, video taken by Mexican media showed.
Some of the signs asked U.S. residents to “stay at home.” Others called on Mexico President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to step up controls and restrictions along the U.S.-Mexico border to contain the spread of COVID-19.
The number of confirmed cases in the U.S., the third highest in the world, is significantly higher than Mexico, a situation that is also true along the states on both sides of the border.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Arizona’s Department of Health Services has confirmed more than 400 cases, including at least six deaths resulting from the coronavirus. All four Arizona border counties confirmed additional cases Wednesday, including Santa Cruz County, which includes Nogales.
Sonora, Arizona’s neighbor to the south, has confirmed a total of four cases of COVID-19 statewide, according to state health officials. None of those cases are from Sonora’s border communities.
Blockade is ‘first warning’ for Mexico president
Jose Luis Hernandez, with the group called Sonorenses por la Salud y la Vida (Sonorans for Health and Life), explained the reason for Wednesday’s blockade. He called it the “first warning” for López Obrador.
“There are no health screenings by the federal government to deal with this pandemic,” he said. “That’s why we’re here in Nogales. We’ve taken this action to call on the Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to act now.”
The group presented a set of demands, warning that they would take similar action again if the Mexican government fails to act. Their demands mirror a set of restrictions that the U.S. government began enforcing at the border over the weekend.
The demands call for a temporary ban on visits for tourism and minor medical procedures in Mexico for both U.S. citizens as well as Mexicans living in the U.S. The group is asking for Mexican health officials to step up screenings of everybody crossing the border for symptoms of COVID-19.
The protesters emphasized the risk to border communities if health officials don’t properly screen all migrants that U.S. border officials are deporting or sending back into Mexico.
Hernandez said the restrictions shouldn’t impact trade and commerce, including the region’s profitable winter produce industry and the manufacturing plants that employ thousands in Mexico.
“This is for your health. This is for your family,” Hernandez said. “Or what do you want to happen? That this becomes worse given the irresponsibility of the Mexican government? Of course not. That’s why were here.”
Last week, the U.S. and Mexico governments agreed to restrict travel along the border, limiting it to “essential” reasons, such as medical emergencies, school or work.
However, few controls are in place at the border crossings on the Mexican side of the border to enforce those restrictions.
State health officials in Sonora separately deployed its staff to border crossings last week, including at the DeConcini crossing. But they were mostly stationed at the pedestrian crossings.
Few cars were able to maneuver around the blockade, forcing a bottleneck in southbound traffic in downtown Nogales, Arizona.
Officers with the Nogales Police Department in Arizona began redirecting Mexico-bound traffic at Crawford Street, several hundred yards north of the entrance to the DeConcini port of entry.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials in Nogales said the traffic at the DeConcini crossing had reopened at about 5:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Nogales, Arizona, issued a statement Wednesday acknowledging the blockade on the Mexican side of the border and warning of potentially negative impacts on the city if it continued.
“Nogales Police anticipates demonstrations may continue tomorrow. The closure of any Port of Entry will negatively impact commerce and the way of life in Nogales,” the city’s statement said.
López Obrador widely criticized
López Obrador has been widely criticized in Mexico for his tepid response to the coronavirus pandemic. He has continued to hold mass rallies around the country, where he shakes hands with supporters and kisses babies.
Last week, during one of his morning news conferences, he said that “honesty” was the best protection against the virus, and then proceeded to pull out two religious icons from his wallet.
“These are my bodyguards,” López Obrador told reporters.
On Sunday, he once again drew widespread condemnation throughout the country when he said that Mexican culture made them “very resistant to all calamities.”
López Obrador also urged Mexicans to continue going out for dinner with their families to support the economy, defying the advice from medical professionals in Mexico and around the globe who have instead called on people to stay home as a best practice to avoid the spread of the COVID-19.
“We are still in the first phase,” López Obrador said. “I will tell you when not to go out anymore.
This week, as Mexico entered the second phase of community transmission, federal health officials in Mexico City finally called for stricter measures in Mexico, such as limiting large gatherings.
Several Mexican states, including Sonora, introduced these types measures days or weeks ago.
On March 16, Sonora Gov. Claudia Pavlovich implemented a series of restrictions after the state confirmed its first case, an elderly man who had traveled in the days prior to the United States.
Sonora banned gatherings larger than 10 people, and called for the closures of all schools and non-essential businesses such as gyms, bars and movie theaters.

AP: Canada urges US not to put troops at border during pandemic

Rob Gillies, The Associated Press
6 hours ago
Canada said Thursday it told the Trump administration that a proposal to put troops at the U.S.-Canada border amid the coronavirus pandemic was entirely unnecessary and would damage relations between the two longtime allies.
The Wall Street Journal, citing an unidentified U.S. official, later reported that the Trump administration had dropped its consideration of the plan.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his government had been in discussions with the White House seeking to persuade the U.S. not to do it.
"Canada and the United States have the longest un-militarized border in the world and it is very much in both of our interests for it to remain that way," Trudeau said.
Trump said the U.S. has troops at the border but then said he would need to find out about that. He then suggested he would deploy troops along the Canadian border to match what is being done at the Mexican border.
“I guess it’s equal justice to a certain extent,” Trump said. “We have a lot of things coming in from Canada, we have trade, some illegal trade, that we don’t like.”
According to a U.S. official, the Department of Homeland Security did make a formal request to the Pentagon for military forces to provide additional security along the northern border, between entry points. The official said the request was made a few days ago and the Defense Department had done some initial planning but there was no final decision on whether or not to approve the request.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, said there was no discussion about closing the border, only about beefing up efforts to prevent any illegal crossings. It wasn’t clear whether the department was still pursuing the request by late Thursday afternoon, or if approved, whether it would be filled by active duty or National Guard troops.
Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said the government had told the Trump administration there was no justification for troops. Very few people cross the border into the U.S. from Canada illegally and Canada has universal health care and widespread testing for the virus. And COVID-19 cases are surging more in the U.S. than in Canada.
“What we have said is, ‘We really do not believe at all that there would be a public health justification for you to take this action,’” Freeland said. “And we have said, ‘We really don’t think this is the right way to treat a trusted friend and military ally.’"
Freeland said specifics of the U.S. proposal was a question for American officials to answer and declined to say what the Trump administration was contemplating.
She said they Canada was “very directly and very forcefully” expressing the view that “this is an entirely unnecessary step” that Canada would "view as damaging to the relationship.”
Freeland said they first learned of the proposal a few days ago. Trudeau’s office had been in direct contact with the White House and Canada’s defense and public safety ministers had spoken to their counterparts.
Canada has more than 3,400 coronavirus cases, 35 deaths and has tested over 158,000 people.
Canada sends 75% of its imports to the U.S. and about 18% of American exports go to Canada. The two countries have already closed the border both ways to all non-essential travel.
Bruce Heyman, a former U.S. ambassador to Canada, said it would be a serious misuse of resources and a dangerous and inappropriate use of American troops.
“It makes no military sense. It makes no economic sense. It makes no sense at any level other than Donald Trump’s political level,” Heyman said.

Military.com: These Are the Special Military Pay and Allowances for Coronavirus

26 Mar 2020
Military.com | By Amy Bushatz
New guidance from the Pentagon lays out a series of special pays and allowances for military members who are dealing with coronavirus response, quarantined after contracting the virus or separated from their families due to permanent change-of-station changes.
The guidance, issued Thursday evening, includes a new cash allowance for troops ordered to quarantine after exposure to the virus.
The new pay, known as Hardship Duty Pay-Restriction of Movement (HDP-ROM), helps troops who are ordered to self-isolate, but are unable to do so at home or in government-provided quarters, to cover the cost of lodging, according to the guidance. Service members can receive $100 a day for up to 15 days each month if they meet the requirements, the guidance states.
"HDP-ROM is a newly-authorized pay that compensates service members for the hardship associated with being ordered to self-monitor in isolation," a fact sheet issued with the guidance states. "HDP-ROM may only be paid in the case where your commander (in conjunction with military or civilian health care providers) determines that you are required to self-monitor and orders you to do so away from your existing residence at a location not provided by or funded by the government."
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For example, if a single service member who otherwise lives in the barracks is ordered to self-isolate, but no other on-base housing is available, he or she could get a hotel room instead, and use the allowance to cover the cost, the policy says.
Service members will not be required to turn in receipts to receive the allowance, it adds, and commanders will be required to authorize it. The payment is given instead of per diem, according to the fact sheet.
The guidance also clarifies housing and separation allowances for families who are impacted by self-isolation rules or whose military move was halted by the stop-movement order issued early this month.
Service members who receive Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) but who are ordered into self-isolation in government-provided quarters will continue to receive BAH or overseas housing allowances (OHA) at their normal rates, it states.
Additionally, a Family Separation Housing Allowance (FSH) may be available for families whose military move was split by the stop-movement order, the guidance states. That payment allows the family to receive two BAH allotments