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Temporary Duty Assignments – Understanding Your Pay & Benefits While on TDY Orders

TDY is the three-letter acronym that often leaves servicemembers and families confused....

TDY is the three-letter acronym that often leaves servicemembers and families confused. Get to know the various types of Temporary Duty Assignment (TDY) or Temporary Assignment Duty (TAD) to keep your finances and sanity from teetering into the red when you are on TDY orders.

Fully understanding your military assignments and benefits is the benchmark of a seasoned servicemember. Pay increases or decreases, what per diem covers, and whether or not family members could or should accompany are all factors to fully grasp before going TDY.

Understanding TDY Orders

Three Types of Military Orders

There are three primary types of military orders:

Of the three, TDY orders are likely the most complex, as they can be issued as an add-on to additional orders like a PCS. In addition to complexity, TDY orders also offer the most flexibility for servicemembers and their dependents to determine how they will handle assignments, placing them in a location anywhere from just a few days to six months.

There are likely dozens of situations where TDY may be issued. Some examples include additional schooling, career specialties that require frequent travel, or completing special assignments for the military. In nature, the assignments are meant to be short in duration and non-permanent.

Financial Considerations of TDY Orders

The financial characteristics of TDY are perhaps the most important piece to understand. Consider TDY orders to be similar to travel for professional civilian jobs (like conferences). The organization, in this case, the military, will authorize a certain dollar amount per day called “per diem” for everyday expenses such as food, lodging, and transportation. Essentially, additional TDY pay on top of your regular pay is an additional fixed budget given to you per day. It is the servicemember’s responsibility to budget adequately.

You may be eligible for per diem even if you are temporarily assigned in the same state as your current duty station depending on the situation.

While on assignment, it is critical to keep the following receipts so you can have them validated for reimbursement upon return.

  • Lodging
  • Meal receipts
  • Gas
  • Taxi/Uber/shuttle expenses
  • Any travel costs like flights, subway, etc.
  • Daily mileage totals (if you are traveling in your own vehicle)
  • Incidental expenses or any unexpected costs directly related to daily operations

According to the Department of Defense, “A Service member ordered to a U.S. installation must use adequate and available Government quarters.” This means that if lodging is available, you will likely be required to stay in military housing, such as the barracks, or in installation hotels or accommodations. While exceptions to policy (ETP) do happen, it is largely dependent on a host of factors.

Exceptions to Policy (ETP)

Let’s say, for example, that following his commission, a soldier receives TDY orders to Basic Officer Leaders Course (BOLC) which requires a six-month stay. The soldier has a family and would prefer they accompany him to the training and he requests to stay in off-installation accommodations for the duration of the training course.

While it is not guaranteed, this is a strong case for ETP to be considered. Off installation accommodations would offer greater flexibility to find budget-friendly options within per diem that also include benefits such as on-site laundry and kitchenettes.

When overages or excessive fees are incurred or circumstances constitute an exception to policy, the Authorizing Official (AO) will need to pre-approve the charges before they will be reimbursed. You may not be reimbursed if you are not given pre-authorization, so it is essential to communicate prior to making decisions that will incur costs.

Per Diem – What is Covered on TDY Orders?

Knowing what is not covered in per diem is just as important as knowing what is.

The military will not cover alcohol purchases in stores or in restaurant establishments. If a servicemember chooses to consume alcohol with their meal, a separate receipt would likely be the best choice, additionally, any charges will be the full responsibility of the individual. Additionally, when deciding to consume alcohol, a full understanding of what hours are considered on and off duty is the responsibility of the servicemember.

Family Separation Allowance (FSA) is an additional benefit offered to servicemembers when they are on assignment away from their family greater than 30 days. It is important to note that if a servicemember’s family accompanies the active duty member for the entire duration of the TDY, FSA would not be considered. However, FSA benefits do apply when dependents visit the servicemember for less than 30 consecutive days.

The eligibility for FSA may be extended to National Guard and wounded warriors, depending on the type, length, and restrictions of the TDY assignment.

TDY Meals

Meal rates are based upon location, just like in the civilian world. Speaking with the Authorizing Official (AO) before going TDY to get a precise dollar amount for per diem is highly recommended. A portion, but not always the full amount of gratuity is also included in travel-related expenses.

An often-forgotten component of TDY rates includes factoring in “included” meals provided by the conference or government in your stay. If two out of three meals will be provided, rates may be reduced per day as well as any additional meals. Religious or dietary requirements are an exception to the policy if the traveler meets all requirements. All servicemembers should speak with their local Authorizing Official, command, and financial office to ensure they are fully up to speed.

Going TDY can provide an interesting change of pace and has the potential to put some extra cash in your pocket depending on your budget and personal preferences. If you are someone who likes to cook for yourself in a kitchenette you can save some money. But if you are expected to attend formal functions, eating out often, TDY can get expensive. With a little planning, your TDY experience can be a good one.