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Claim leave time by deadline or risk losing it

Nov. 26, 2012 - 08:21AM   |   Last Updated: Nov. 26, 2012 - 08:21AM  |  
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You earned your leave time, now it's time to use it before new rules kick in that limit the number of days you can carry over each year.

The rules were relaxed in the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act, which allowed service members to carry up to 75 days forward to the next fiscal year.

While the Defense Department is working with Congress to extend the carry-over authority beyond Sept. 30, there's no guarantee a deal will be struck, so you could lose up to 15 days of leave Oct. 1, when the temporary leave carryover expires.

If Congress does not extend the temporary leave carryover, airmen who have more than 60 days of leave accrued must use it by Oct. 1.

"It's possible that the provision could be extended, but airmen shouldn't count on that. Members must plan ahead to ensure they're able to use their excess leave," said Senior Master Sgt. Kreig Cressione, AFPC Special Programs Branch chief. "Supervisors need to be aware, as well, so they can work to deconflict leave in their work centers."

Airmen who have more than 30 days of accrued leave now should remember that they accrue 2.5 days each month, which could put them over the limit by Sept. 30, Cressione said.

There are exceptions to the use-or-lose rule. Airmen can be approved for special leave accrual, which allows service members to carry over up to 120 days of leave from one fiscal year to the next, said Defense Department spokeswoman Eileen Lainez. Special leave accrual is granted to troops who serve continuously on active duty for 120 days in an imminent danger pay area.

But most airmen won't be able to carry over that much leave, Cressione said.

"Airmen on active duty who are entitled to hostile-fire and imminent-danger pay are generally authorized to carry excess leave, but it isn't automatic, they have to request it," he said.

To receive approval for special leave accrual, airmen must submit a request to the unit commander. Deployed members must identify themselves to the Personnel Support for Contingency Operations team, and the PERSCO team will notify their home station's military personnel section for action.

Some reserve members will be affected as well, said Lt. Col. Belinda Petersen, spokesman for the Air Reserve Personnel Center. Unlike the rest of reserve component troops, active Guard and Reserve members receive the same pay benefits as the active-duty force. "Some people may not be aware of the difference between traditional Reserve and AGR, so if you're affected, it's a good idea to make sure your supervisor and co-workers are aware," Peterson said.

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