Democratic lawmakers are pushing Defense Department leaders to ensure travel restrictions on troops related to the coronavirus outbreak don’t result in financial disaster for their families.
In a letter to Defense Secretary Mark Esper this weekend, the group of 26 House and Senate lawmakers warned about “the unintended impacts” of the stop movement orders issued by military leaders in late March.
Those restrictions shut down most permanent change of station moves and limited troops’ travel to just a few miles away from their assigned bases. DoD officials announced in mid-April that those restrictions would be extended through June 30.
Veterans advocates have acknowledged the need for the moves, designed to limit service members’ exposure to potential coronavirus infection. More than 65,000 Americans have died from complications related to the illness in the last eight weeks.
But those outside groups have also noted that the new military travel rules may have left some military families with two housing payments: one at the location where they were planning to move, and one at the bases where they have been required to remain for now.
Lawmakers said some financial protections must be given to those individuals.
“Clearly, that is an unfair financial burden to place on a military family, especially as the situation is not their fault,” the letter states.
“While DoD works to protect our military families, keeping them from PCSing means long days sheltering-in-place as a family in a hotel for some, and weeks without household goods for others.”
The group — which includes House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Mark Takano, D-Calif.; House Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee Chairwoman Jackie Spier, D-Calif.; Senate Veterans’ Affairs ranking member Jon Tester, D-Mont.; and Senate Armed Services Committee member Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn. — offers congressional intervention if defense leaders believe they need new authorities to help those affected troops.
They’ve asked for a review of current DoD authorities “to provide compensation and relief to military families” facing financial hardship because of the new rules.
The group is also requesting a full accounting of how many military families may be affected by the double housing issue, and when PCS moves may be resumed.
Defense officials have not yet responded to the latest lawmaker request. More than 100,000 troops, along with families, are gearing up for the annual permanent change of station season.
The letter follows a similar message from 36 Democratic House members in mid-April asking for “immediate” financial relief for those families, noting that individual base commanders have caps on how much emergency money they can distribute to troops for housing difficulties.