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USAG Daegu, South Korea, families enjoy the Easter Egg Hunt on Camp Walker’s Kelly Field April 11.

WASHINGTON — Soldiers who have continued to serve during the coronavirus pandemic can now accumulate an additional 60 days of leave, according to new guidance.

A special leave accrual allows Soldiers who have served between March 11 and Sept. 30 of 2020 to carryover up to 120 leave days of leave into fiscal year 2021.

Soldiers who have already accumulated extra leave on another special leave accrual due to a deployment or an extended hospital stay can also add additional days to their FY total, but cannot exceed the 120-day cap.

Soldiers have until the end of Fiscal 2023 to use the additional leave days earned in 2020.

Sgt. 1st Class Michael Blank, assigned to the 18th Medical Command at Fort Shafter, Hawaii, learned last month that he might lose 23 days of leave when the DoD placed travel restrictions on service members.He said the new instruction will bring Soldiers in similar situations much-needed relief.

“It definitely takes a lot of stress off Soldiers,” Blank said of the extended special leave accrual.

J. D. Riley, deputy chief of the Army compensations and entitlements division, G-1, said DoD made the change to address concerns of Soldiers who do not wish to take leave during the pandemic and to reward Soldiers for their efforts in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

“Although the current leave policy allows people to take leave locally, what you have is a lot of service members don’t want to take leave because most states have said ‘we need you to stay at home.’ They don’t want to take leave for just sitting at home,” Riley said.

The option to retain additional leave gives Soldiers a much-needed morale booster during extended home stays, Riley said.

“We don’t need service members thinking about losing leave and things like that,” he said. “They need to be focused on the mission at hand. They need to be focused on their families.”