Air Force Program Allows Humanitarian Assignments in Time of Need

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An Air Force reassignment program might be able to help airmen whose families are experiencing a long distance crises. If they qualify, those troops can use the program for an extra military move or to stay at their current location.

The Humanitarian Reassignment and Deferment Program, run by the Air Force Personnel Center, assists active-duty airmen in resolving severe, short-term problems involving a family member while airmen continue to meet the needs of the Air Force.

"The spirit and intent of the program is to place the airman at the closest location to where the problem exists," said Kimberly Schuler, Humanitarian Assignment Policy chief. "Typically, a reassignment or deferment is a one-time action to resolve a critical problem with a family member within a reasonable period of time, normally 12 months."

The definition of "family member" for the Humanitarian Program is limited to spouse; child; parents, to include in-laws and stepparents; person in loco parentis; or other persons actually residing in the household who are dependent on the airman for more than half of their financial support.

"We often get asked about siblings," Schuler said. "That's always a tough one because siblings aren't within the scope of the definition of 'family member.' However, if the sibling is terminally ill, we'll look at the request as an exception to policy."

In a case that requires a long-term solution, an airman would have to look at other options, she said.

"The Humanitarian Program is a temporary solution to a short-term problem and the Air Force is unable to consider a permanent or prolonged deferment."

The comptroller general has ruled that the Air Force cannot make moves at government expense based solely on humanitarian reasons. The reassignment or deferment must be to meet Air Force mission needs in addition to helping the airman. Therefore, a valid vacancy must exist at the gaining base and the airman must meet retainability requirements for a permanent change of station.

Schuler's team in AFPC's Military Assignment Programs Branch, along with a team of six case managers in the Assignment Support Section and 11 Total Force Service Center Assignment technicians processes approximately 1,000 requests annually to expedite assistance to airmen in need.

Humanitarian reassignment or deferment is not limited to a single reason. Circumstances can include the terminal illness of a family member, the death of an airman's spouse or child, the sexual assault of the airman's spouse or child, or issues involving a serious financial impact such as the loss of property through fire or natural disaster.

"The reason doesn't have to fit into a box," Schuler said.

In each situation, the AFPC Medical Review Board or the AFPC Administrative Law Office reviews requests for verification of clinical data submitted with an application or for the verification of legal documentation. Careful consideration goes into the adjudication of each request, as these airmen are normally in a crisis and deserve the most compassionate eyes possible on their situation.

"It's not just personnelists making the decision," Schuler said. "It's a whole system of checks and balances. The entire team looks at the whole-person concept. We look at each situation as if we were in that airman's shoes and view the circumstances with empathy and kindness."

Missing documentation can delay the process, which is normally about two to four weeks. Schuler said the more supporting documentation the airman can provide about every aspect of the situation, the better, as it paints a clearer picture of the scope of the problem. Burden of proof is on the member to prove that their situation is more than what an average airman is going through.

"Everyone has a tipping point, so we weigh everything--everything--happening in that airman's life to determine the best course of action," she said.

Currently, 2,916 airmen are directly benefiting from humanitarian assignments at bases across the Air Force. However, if the airman's application does not meet the threshold for an approval under the Humanitarian Program, the case managers take the extra step to research if the airman may be eligible for another alternative assignment option.

"Perhaps the airman can apply for a Base of Preference or a follow-on assignment," Schuler said. "Or maybe they don't meet the requirements right now, but if something changes, they can reapply. We try to manage their expectations and provide resources instead of just simply saying, 'Denied.'"

Schuler's team is also working on improvements to the application process to make it more intuitive. Two efficiencies they would like to implement include a "delivery" status bar, visible to customers in the virtual Military Personnel Flight, and a defined set of statuses with detailed explanations of the application process.

To help airmen navigate those resources, Schuler's team hosts recurring webcasts on the Humanitarian Reassignment and Deferment Program. The next webinar for all airman is scheduled for Sept. 27, 2017 at 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Central Daylight Time.

Additionally, airmen can chat with a personnel specialist live on myPers about the humanitarian program between the hours of 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. CDT. To access the chat feature, click on the Humanitarian/EFMP link under "Assignment Programs" on the active-duty myPers Assignment landing page, hover the mouse cursor for 30 seconds and a chat window will appear.

For more information about Air Force personnel programs, visit myPers. Individuals who do not have a myPers account can request one by following the instructions on the Air Force's Personnel Center website.

Military.com contributed to this article.

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Air Force Family and Spouse

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