Accrual of military leave
Servicemembers on active duty accrue leave at the rate of 30 days per year, or 2 1/2 days per month. DOD Financial Management Regulation, 7000.14-R, Volume 7a, Chapter 35, section 350102.B.
A full month of paid vacation per year sounds pretty generous (and it is!), but it’s value is somewhat diminished by the fact that a servicemember on leave uses one day per day of leave, even if that day were a weekend or holiday when he/she would not be working anyway! Contrast that to the vacation time granted by most employers, which only counts normal workdays.
With limited exceptions, a servicemember may only carry over a maximum of 60 days of leave from into the next fiscal year. DOD Financial Management Regulation, 7000.14-R, Volume 7a, Chapter 35, section 350102.B. Any leave in excess of that 60-day threshold is referred to as “use it or lose it”, and is even reflected in a box on the LES captioned “Use/Lose”. NOTE: there is a temporary increase in the carryover leave to 75 days, but that is scheduled to end on September 30, 2013.
Cashing In Leave
Servicemembers are authorized to sell back their military leave, also known as cashing in their leave, when they are discharged from the military under honorable conditions. 37 U.S. Code § 501.
The maximum amount of leave that can be cashed in is 60 days, per 37 U.S. Code §501(f), and the leave is valued at base pay only, without BAH, BAS, or any other pay or allowances. 37 U.S. Code § 501(b)(1).
For enlisted members, “discharge” includes the expiration of a term of reenlistment, even if the servicemember reenlists. 37 U.S. Code § 501(a)(1).
Finally, each servicemember may only cash in 60 days during his/her career, with certain exceptions for leave accrued during contingency operations. DOD Financial Management Regulation, 7000.14-R, Volume 7a, Chapter 35, section 350102.B. That means that if an enlisted member has already cashed in 60 days as part of a reenlistment, he/she must take take transitional leave rather than cashing it in.
Instead of cashing-in leave, often servicemembers leaving active duty will take transitional leave (formerly known as “terminal leave”). This means that they have out-processed from the military, and, for all practical purposes, are out of the military, but they still receive their full pay while on transitional leave.
The advantages to a servicemember are that he/she receives full pay and allowances, including BAH, BAS, etc, rather than just base pay. And, by obtaining a waiver, he/she is permitted to work while on transitional leave.
The disadvantage is that the servicemember is still, technically, on active duty in case the balloon goes up, or the servicemember commits a UCMJ violation.
Treatment of Military Leave in a Divorce
A state divorce court may, under certain circumstances, treat accrued military leave as a divisible asset. As an example, if a servicemember whose base pay is $6000 per month has exactly 30 days of accrued leave, that could be considered a $6000 asset.
In Colorado, the deciding factor is whether the employee has the right to cash in the leave, and whether its value can be determined. See the Vacation & Sick Time article in the Colorado Divorce & Family Law Guide for more information.