Military Humanitarian or Compassionate Assignments
Requesting Assignments for Extreme Family Problems
It's an unfortunate truth that sometimes during a military career, a member may experience a severe family hardship which requires his/her presence to resolve, with circumstances which make resolving it with emergency leave impractical.
To help military members in such situations, each of the services has developed a program which allows military members to be re-assigned, or temporarily deferred from assignment, if they have a severe family hardship which absolutely requires their presence to resolve.
The Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard call this program Humanitarian Assignments. The Army calls their program Compassionate Assignments.
Exceptional Family Member Program
While not a component of Humanitarian/Compassionate Assignments, the Exceptional Family Member Program or EFMP warrants special mention. EFMP was developed to make sure military family members (dependents) with special needs (medical, educational, etc.), receive the special attention they require. A small part of this program is integrated into the military assignments system.
When a military member has dependents (spouse, son, daughter, step-son, step-daughter, etc.) with special needs, they are enrolled in EFMP. If the member is selected for an accompanied assignment, one of the first things that happen is the EFMP folks at the losing base contact the EFMP folks at the projected gaining base to determine if the dependent's special needs can be adequately addressed at the new location.
If not, the assignment is canceled. This ensures that military dependents are not forced to move to locations where their special needs cannot be adequately addressed, either by the military installation or in the local community.
EFMP does not restrict a member from doing his/her share of unaccompanied assignments, however, so they can still deploy.
The program merely makes sure that members aren't selected for an accompanied assignment to areas where their dependents would not get the special attention they require.
A Humanitarian Assignment is a special assignment authorized to alleviate a hardship so severe an emergency leave cannot fully resolve it. While each of the services has different procedures, there are some requirements which are common to all the branches.
To qualify for a Humanitarian Assignment consideration, a military member must have a documented and substantiated problem involving a family member, which is significantly more severe than other military members experience. "Family Member" is generally defined as spouse, child, father, mother, father-in-law, mother-in-law, person in loco parentis or other persons residing in the household who are dependent for over half of their financial support. In the Coast Guard, father-in-law, and mother-in-law do not qualify as family members for the purposes of Humanitarian Assignments.
The problem must be able to be resolved within a specific time-frame (six months to two years, depending on the branch of service). Military members are expected to be available for worldwide assignment, at all times, according to the needs of the service.
That's a large part of why they get a paycheck. For those who have a permanent or prolonged family problem which prevents reassignment, humanitarian discharge is generally the appropriate action.
The Comptroller General has ruled that the military services cannot fund an assignment relocation for humanitarian reasons only. That means there must be a valid slot at the gaining base for the person's rank and job. For example, the Air Force would not be able to reassign an F-15 Fighter Aircraft Mechanic to a base that does not have slots for F-15 Fighter Aircraft Mechanics. However, sometimes a service will allow a member to re-train into a different job, in order to fill a required slot at the Humanitarian Assignment Location.
Army Compassionate Action Requests
The Army calls their Humanitarian Assignment Program "Compassionate Action Requests." Compassionate actions are requests from individual soldiers when personal problems exist.
The two types of compassionate requests are when personal problems are:
- Temporary (resolvable within a year).
- Not expected to be resolved within a year.
A reassignment may be authorized when there are extreme family problems and the soldier's presence is needed. A soldier may get a deletion or deferment from an overseas assignment if the problem requires them to stay in the U.S. for a short time.
If the problem is chronic or can't be resolved in a short amount of time, a compassionate discharge procedure is generally the most appropriate action. Consideration for reassignment may be given in cases of extreme family problems that are not expected to be resolved within a year if it meets the needs of the Army.
Requests are made on DA Form 3739, Application for Assignment/Deletion/Deferment for Extreme Family Problems submitted through the chain of command. This must be done by the soldier. Commanders can disapprove compassionate requests when they clearly do not meet the prerequisites. The Army Personnel Command has approval authority for compassionate reassignment.
Criteria for Compassionate Action
- The soldier needs to be present to resolve the problem, and it can't be done with leave.
- The problem cannot have been foreseen when the soldier last entered active duty.
- A family member includes spouse, child, parent, minor brother or sister, person in loco parentis, or the only living blood relative of the soldier. If not one of those people, they must be documented as a dependent or, in the case of parents-in-law, no other member of the spouse's family can help.
- For reassignment, a job (MOS) of the correct rank must be available at the requested installation.
- A pending assignment may be deferred until the request is decided. However, soldiers in basic training will not be deferred from AIT pending the results.
- The problem must be temporary and resolvable within one year, although longer deferments are sometimes approved.
Examples of Requests That Are Normally Approved
- Death, rape, or severe psychotic episode of your spouse or minor child.
- Terminal illness of an immediate family member whose doctor documents they are expected to pass within 12 months.
- Major surgery for spouse or minor child which will have 12 months or less of recovery time.
- If you were separated from your family due to military service (not negligence or misconduct) and your children are being placed in foster care.
- Adoption if the child is being placed within 90 days and the adoption was initiated before notification of reassignment.
- Soldiers en route from an accompanied OCONUS tour to an unaccompanied OCONUS tour may be deferred for up to 30 days. The deferment is for settlement of family when the soldier's presence is required for unforeseen problems.
- A recent death of other family members with extenuating circumstances.
Examples of Requests That Are Normally Not Approved
- You want to move to a new area.
- Divorce or separation and legal actions relating to it, including child custody.
- Gaining child custody in a divorce.
- Sole parenthood.
- Spouse's difficult pregnancy.
- Family member's allergies.
- Housing problems.
- Financial problems.
- Chronic problems relating to parents or parents-in-law.
If a compassionate action request is disapproved, a soldier may only request reconsideration for the same family emergency one time. If that is disapproved, there will be no further reconsideration.
For complete details about the Army's Compassionate Assignments Program, see Army Regulation 614-200, Enlisted Assignments and Utilization Management, paragraph 5-8.
More Humanitarian Assignments
HARDSHIP TRANSFER REQUESTS
1. Any employee may request special consideration for transfer due to personal hardship.Management will consider all hardship transfer requests.
2. Hardships are situations outside of the employee's reasonable ability to control that affect the health and welfare of the employee or a family member.(“Family member” is defined in the HUD/AFGE Agreement at Article 2, Section 2(6).)
3. Examples of significant hardship include, but are not limited to:
a. A specific long-term medical situation where services or care are more accessible in a specific location.
b. Special education needs for children related to physical or mental disability.
c. Significant and recurring harassment or discrimination against the employee or his/her family at work or in the community.
d. Specific situations related to family member status, such as divorce, reconciliation, sibling care issues, spousal placement (dual career), etc.
4. Process for requesting a hardship transfer:
a. An employee seeking a hardship transfer shall present his/her case to the Director of his/her office (the Field Office Director, the Regional Director, or the General Deputy Assistant Secretary for employees in Headquarters) with copies to his/her immediate frontline supervisor and Program Director.Where confidentiality is a legitimate concern, the employee may bypass his/her immediate supervisor.
b. The Director will have authority to investigate whether a hardship exists.The Director can request additional information from the applicant.To protect the confidentiality of the requesting employee, once the Director is reasonably satisfied that a hardship exists, there shall be no further discussion of the nature of the hardship;provided, however, that once the transfer is approved, Management may advise the receiving office Management of the nature of the hardship, who shall respect the confidentiality of the matter and the employee.
c. The Director will notify the employee as quickly as possible, but no later than thirty (30) days after receipt of the request for transfer, that the hardship request has been received, whether or not Management believes there is a hardship, and what is being done to satisfy the request.
(i) If Management believes there is a hardship, they shall:
(A) offer the employee a 120 day detail to the appropriate office as an interim measure.
(B) advise the employee of a final decision within 45 days, detailing the reasons for the decision.In the event of a denial, Management shall offer to extend the detail for another 120 days, during which Management shall periodically review the circumstances of the denial to determine if permanent reassignment is possible.If a denial is based upon staff ceiling issues (for either the gaining or losing office), Management shall demonstrate that they have considered options including the possibility of outstationing from either the losing office or from Headquarters to the gaining office.Additionally, if a final decision is not provided within 90 days, the employee's detail shall be extended for an additional 120 days.
(ii) If Management does not believe a hardship exists, either party may seek mediation from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service prior to filing any formal action.Seeking mediation will not extend any time limits for filing a formal action, except by mutual consent of the parties.
d. Employees shall be treated fairly and equitably in the administration of this policy.Hardship transfers shall not involve the loss of grade.Relocation assistance is not required, but if it is provided, it must be done in a fair and equitable manner.
e. Confidentiality regarding an employee's hardship situation will be maintained to the extent possible.
5. Assistance:The employee may request assistance and advice through the Union and/or the Employee Assistance Program, and may authorize them to share information regarding the hardship situation with Management.
6. Notice to the Union:Annually in January, Management shall provide the Union with a list of all hardship transfer requests, sanitized to remove the names of the employees and the office locations, that includes for each requesting employee:the nature of the hardship, the grade of the employee, the final decision, and whether relocation assistance was provided.The Union may seek additional information in accordance with law, rule, regulation or the parties’ collective bargaining agreement.