Military parents get up to 12 weeks paid leave after DOD changes



Military service members who have recently given birth, adopted children or placed children up for adoption now have 12 weeks of paid leave, the Department of Defense announced Wednesday.

The move is an expansion of the Military Parental Leave Program and applies to service members on active duty for 12 months or more.

The 12-week policy applies to those who have given birth, adoptive parents, non-birth parents and eligible foster parents.

Previous policies granted eligible parents and caregivers up to three weeks or six weeks, said Charlie Dietz, a spokesperson for the office of the Secretary of Defense.

Non-birth parents, adoptive parents and long-term foster parents were included before. However, the new policy will ensure paternal leave remains separate from medical recovery leave, extending it even more, Dietz said.

“Long-term foster placement was added as a qualifying event for parental leave eligibility,” Dietz told USA TODAY about the change.

A program for birth parents, non-birth parents and adoptive ones

The parental leave expansion also includes service members who were on maternity convalescent leave or caregiver leave on Dec. 27 (before the new policy went into effect).

Specifically, the expansion grants 12 weeks of parental leave to:

  • Service members who have given birth
  • Non-birth parents
  • Adoptive parents
  • Long-term foster parents

According to the policy, parents are eligible for 12-week leave during the first year that the child is born.

And according to the DOD, parents who haven’t used up their leave can also take advantage of the new policy without losing any benefits.

“In other words, birth parents on maternity convalescent leave or caregiver leave as of (Dec. 27) will, between the old policy and the new, receive a total of eighteen weeks of non-chargeable leave following the birth of their child.

For example, a father who is out on three weeks of secondary caregiver leave as of Dec. 27 will get 12 weeks total of parental leave without interruption.

Previous efforts to balance leave for new parents

This isn’t the first time pushes have been made to increase leave for new parents who serve.

In 2015, U.S. Navy tripled the amount of paid maternity leave female sailors and marines received after having children to 18 weeks. While the change extended leave for maternity cases only, it still made the Navy the first of the military services to grant more than six weeks of leave, the Associated Press reported.

Then in 2018, the U.S. Air Force expanded its parental leave policy to include Total Force Airmen who are birth mothers and fathers, same-sex couples, as well as adoptive and surrogate parents. 

The expansion increased convalescent leave to six weeks, primary caregiver leave to six weeks, and secondary caregiver leave to three weeks.

Saleen Martin is a reporter on USA TODAY’s NOW team. She is from Norfolk, Virginia – the 757 – and loves all things horror, witches, Christmas, and food. Follow her on Twitter at @Saleen_Martin or email her at sdmartin@usatoday.com.



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