Displaced DOD civilians also get safe haven benefits among others

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 8, 2005 - Like their military counterparts, families of DoD civilian employees ordered to evacuate their duty stations due to Hurricane Katrina and whose housing is now uninhabitable can seek temporary safe haven anywhere within the continental United States.

The policy, announced by David S. C. Chu, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, in a Sept. 2 memo, affects civilian employees who were ordered to evacuate their official duty stations in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama by installation commanders or civil authorities.

Affected civilian employees must remain within the geographic area designated by their respective commanders. However, their family members may seek a safe haven anywhere within the lower 48 states, with the federal government picking up the tab for their travel costs and per diem, explained Dick Nicholson, a human resources specialist in DoD's Office of Civilian Personnel Policy.

Family members will receive safe haven allowances in terms of the Joint Travel Regulation, calculated similarly to allowances for temporary-duty travel, Nicholson said. This includes travel costs, the actual cost of lodging, and a separate allowance for meals and incidentals.

Civilian employees and their immediate family members age 12 and over will receive travel pay and 100 percent of the per diem for their safe haven location for the first 30 days, Nicholson said. DoD will pay full travel costs and 50 percent of the per diem rate for family members under age 12.

The allowance authorization extends for the duration of the evacuation order, but no longer than 180 days. Chu announced a similar policy for military families Sept. 1.

Two additional civilian personnel policies are under consideration and expected to be approved soon, Nicholson said.

One policy would permit former civilian employees who accepted a voluntary separation incentive when they retired or resigned to return to the federal workforce without penalty to support hurricane-recovery efforts, Nicholson said.

Normally, these former employees would have to return their "early out" bonuses if they return to federal employment within five years of retiring or resigning. A program that will allow federal employees to donate annual leave to hurricane-affected civilians is also expected to be instituted soon.

President Bush approved the effort, and the Office of Personnel Management directed all federal agencies, including DoD, to implement it. Each military department will operate its own leave-donation program for its civilian workforce, Nicholson said.