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Avoiding hardship: waivers available for mobilized reservists in some situations.

When warranted, mobilized reservists may request to remain on or get off active duty because of personal or financial hardship caused by mobilization, early deactivation or demobilization.

"Waivers are for those airmen who qualify for a hardship," said Col. Mike Cleveland, director of personnel at Headquarters Air Force Reserve Command, Robins Air Force Base, Ga. "We look at each situation, whether it's a request to remain mobilized or a request to demobilize early. Our goal is to return airmen to the same position in civilian life they had before being mobilized."

For example, a captain was mobilized in December 2001 and discovered she was pregnant in February 2002. A C-130 aircraft commander, she was grounded from flying due to her condition and would continue in that status until after her delivery date.

The captain wanted to be demobilized yet remain a reservist assigned to her current unit. Her boss, the operations group commander, stated she could serve effectively in non-flying status in her unit as a traditional reservist. Her wing commander and numbered air force commander concurred that she would better serve the Air Force Reserve as a demobilized traditional reservist.

Her request for demobilization was staffed through Headquarters AFRC and approved by the AFRC vice commander. Her request was then forwarded to Headquarters Air Mobility Command, Scott AFB, Ill., and the Air Force Reserve headquarters received approval to demobilize her shortly thereafter.

The outcome of this action satisfied the needs of a "very valuable member of the AFRC team" and at the same time satisfied the requirements of her unit, Cleveland said. In addition, the Air Force kept a fully trained C-130 pilot and saved more than $1 million by not having to train another person to take her place.

Circumstances that may prevent an individual from returning to civilian status also are considered in hardship requests.

"Reservists with approved cases may be retained for a period up to but not exceeding the original activation period," said Paul Clement, chief of the Personnel Readiness Operations Branch at Headquarters AFRC.

For example, a staff sergeant was mobilized in November 2001 for 12 months but was identified for early demobilization, which would cause a major financial hardship for his family. His wife had a life-threatening health problem, and because of its severity she was unable to obtain health insurance coverage.

After being activated, his family was covered by Tricare Prime, which would pay for a medical procedure to correct his wife's condition. They scheduled the surgery for September 2002, based on the premise that his spouse's surgery and follow-up visits would be completed within the transitional health coverage period following the end of his original 12-month activation order.

Deactivating him before November 2002 meant there would not be enough medical-eligibility time remaining to cover his wife's follow-up visits, which would cause a huge financial hardship for the family.

The staff sergeant submitted a fully documented request, supported by his trait, wing and NAF commanders. His request was approved by the AFRC vice commander, so he remained mobilized for the entire 12 months, and his wife was able to have her medical problems corrected.

In another case, a mobilized airman was being demobilized early, which would conflict with when he was to resume full-time college classes.

When he was mobilized in April 2003, he withdrew from college because he expected to be mobilized for a year. After being mobilized for 55 days, he was told he was being demobilized, which would cause a problem because he could not get back into school until the fall of 2003. He submitted a hardship request to remain mobilized until August 2003, and it was approved.

The hardship application process starts by people applying at their unit military personnel flight. Applicants must conduct an initial interview with the MPF within two duty days after they entered the initial 30-day reconstitution period. The MPF will inform members of necessary documentation and explain the hardship process, which includes a statement that the application package must be submitted to the MPF at least 10 duty days after the initial interview. The unit MPF reviews the package for completeness and forwards the request to its numbered air force.

Reservists should provide a detailed explanation of the hardship, said Clement. Supporting documentation may include, but is not limited to, leave and earning statements, and applicable statements by employers, doctors, judge advocates, chaplains and creditors, as well as financial institutions, universities, schools or the Employer Support for Guard and Re serve.

Reasons for requesting a hardship to stay on active duty include:

* Individuals nullify a civilian employment contract to come on active duty for 12 months and are scheduled for deactivation after 60 to 90 days with no prospect for a new employment contract until six months after release from active duty.

* Physicians sell their medical practice believing they would be on active duty for at least 12 months.

* Individuals are laid off by an employer while activated.

* Owners sign their private business over to another individual for the 12 months they are activated.

* Full-time students withdraw from college when mobilized for 12 months but are notified to demobilize early.

Other circumstances may exist that could also be considered.

However, hardship requests cannot be based on problems that existed before activation, such as an individual being unemployed. Reservists also cannot request a hardship because they can make more money on active duty than in a civilian job or ask to stay on active duty to gain eligibility for entitlements.

Wing commanders can approve or recommend disapproval of requests to remain mobilized for 30 days or less. NAF commanders are the approval authority for 31 to 45 days. The AFRC vice commander approves requests for more than 45 days. If he recommends disapproval, the case goes to the Air Force Personnel Center, Randolph AFB, Texas, for final determination. The results are then processed through channels to the reservist's MPF.

Reservists and their commanders, first sergeants and supervisors can get more details about hardship waivers from their servicing MPF.

"Preplanning and anticipation of a potential hardship ahead of the demobilization date will ensure the member submits the request, has it processed and knows the results in a timely manner," Clement said.

(Lieutenant Patterson is assigned to the HQ AFRC Office of Public Affairs at Robins AFB.)
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Author:Patterson, Lance
Publication:Citizen Airman
Date:Oct 1, 2003
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