A proposed class action lawsuit challenges what two plaintiffs call the “sudden, retroactive, and arbitrary decision” on part of the U.S. Department of the Army to deny reserve component soldiers proper housing allowance entitlements.
According to the case out of the U.S. Federal Claims Court, the Army sometime in 2016 decided that reserve soldiers on active duty status would no longer receive dual housing allowance entitlements despite having to maintain both their primary residence from which they were activated and their overseas residence. Per the case, this decision led to the Army retroactively applying active duty pay and entitlement provisions to reserve soldiers despite their housing situations “vary[ing] greatly” from that of their active component counterparts.
The lawsuit explains that while active duty service members are typically moved with their families at government expense and are not directed to return to their previous stations, reserve component members who are activated to serve on active duty are typically unaccompanied and return to their primary residences and civilian employment following the end of their orders. Thus, reserve component members have a unique need for basic housing allowances to maintain their primary residences in addition to the allowances granted to them for their overseas housing, the case says. Per the suit, reserve-specific provisions of the Department of Defense’s Joint Travel Regulation (JTR) were enacted to accommodate this need.
The lawsuit claims, however, that the Army’s decision to deprive reserve soldiers of their basic housing allowance while they’re stationed overseas misinterprets and renders “meaningless” the JTR’s reserve-specific provisions and has resulted in possibly hundreds or thousands of reserve component soldiers being denied proper housing entitlements. Moreover, the Army applied its decision retroactively and has subjected reserve component members to wage garnishments and disciplinary action in its efforts to recoup amounts that had already been paid to the soldiers, the suit says.
According to the case, the Army’s denial of housing entitlements has placed reserve component soldiers “in a position of tremendous financial hardship” and caused “real concerns” that they would be unable to meet their stateside financial obligations “while serving our country’s national security efforts overseas.”
The lawsuit explains that under the JTR, which “has the force and effect of law” for Department of Defense members, reserve component members are provided “separate and purposefully distinct” guidance from that established for active component members. Per the case, the JTR provides that reserve component members who are called or ordered to active duty shall receive a basic housing allowance whenever they are not authorized a government-paid shipment of household goods. A separate overseas housing allowance, on the other hand, is intended to defray the costs of overseas private sector housing when a reserve component member is authorized to live outside their primary duty station, the lawsuit relays.
The lawsuit claims, however, that the Army’s 2016 decision to treat reserve component members like their active duty counterparts in terms of pay and entitlements—specifically by denying them basic housing allowances to cover the costs of maintaining their primary residences—amounts to “gross negligence” given it ignores and renders “meaningless” the JTR provisions meant to address reserve component soldiers’ unique housing needs.
Per the case, reserve component soldiers, unlike most active duty component members, are not authorized to move their dependents at government expense and are typically not granted command sponsorship, a status that allows active component members full access to government facilities at their primary duty station. Moreover, reserve component members usually receive orders lasting between 180 to 365 days while active component members usually serve for two to three years at a time and do not thereafter return to their previous unit, the complaint explains. The lawsuit alleges that these differences, among others, are the reason the JTR contains specific provisions to address reserve component housing allowances.
According to the case, the Army’s revocation of basic housing allowances from reserve component members has damaged them financially and professionally due to the denial of money they were entitled to and, in many cases, the consequences they suffered for voicing their concerns.
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