Service members wounded in combat will be exempt from the Defense Department’s new policy to be deployable in 12 months or face separation from the military, according to a recent Pentagon announcement.
The policy update came after criticism that DOD would be removing personnel who were only in non-deployable status because of their combat injuries, when the intent goal of the program was to target the thousands of military members who for fitness, health or other administrative reasons have not been deployable for 12 or more consecutive months.
This initiative is part of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis' effort to improve the lethality and readiness of all DOD service branches.
According to DOD Instruction 1332.45 (Retention Determinations for Non-Deployable Service Members), those service members whose injuries were the result of hostile action, meet the criteria for awarding of the Purple Heart, and whose injuries were not the result of their own misconduct are approved for retention.
The policy also allows the service secretaries to identify individuals they wish to exempt from the 12-month deployment requirement if determined to be in the best interest of military service.
Policy exemptions are outlined as:
1. Combat wounded. “These are service members whose injuries were the result of hostile action, meet the criteria for awarding of the Purple Heart, and whose injuries were not the result of their own misconduct.” The policy goes on to say that “disapproval of retention for non-deployable combat wounded service members, who wish to be retained and whose reason for non-deployability is a direct result of their combat wounds, may not be delegated.”
2. Pregnant and post-partum service members. Females are exempt for pregnancy-related health conditions during pregnancy through the post-partum period. Under the policy, pregnancy is considered a temporary non-deployable status, and the duration of that status after childbirth is left to the individual service secretaries.
3. Case-by-case exemptions. The service secretaries may grant exemptions on a case-by-case basis if the service member is filling in a specific position critical to the service.
4. Soon-to-retire. The service secretaries may grant exemptions for active duty service members who are three years away from regular retirement, or reserve component personnel who have accumulated 17 years of reserve service.
In February, the DOD stated that roughly 11 percent, or 235,000, of the 2.1 million personnel serving on active duty, reserves or National Guard were non-deployable. Of that total, nearly 99,000 were non-deployable for administrative reasons, such as not having current immunizations or required annual dental examinations. Additionally, about 20,000 were not deployable due to pregnancy, and 116,000 due to either short- or long-term injuries.
According to Maj. Carla Gleason, Office of the Secretary of Defense Public Affairs, these numbers have improved since the DOD announced this new policy.
“As of May 31, 6.8 percent, or 143,000 of the total force-active duty, National Guard, and reserve are non-deployable, which includes temporary and permanent non-deployable service members; the reasons vary, but are predominantly medical in nature,” she said.
Service members who are not exempted are slated to be processed for administrative separation beginning Oct. 1.