Your LES Is Changing Where it Displays Your Extra COVID Leave Carryover. Pay Attention

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An airman logs into MyPay to check their leave and earnings statement. (20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs/Krystal Wright)

Beginning at the end of October 2021, the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, or DFAS, is changing the way it shows your leave balance on your monthly Leave and Earnings Statement, or LES. Make sure you understand what's happening so you don't accidentally lose leave that you could be using.

Because COVID-19 restrictions made it hard or impossible for service members to take leave last year, the accrual rules were changed temporarily to allow service members to roll over more than 60 days of leave from one fiscal year to the next.

Under the regular rules, any leave balance in excess of 60 days on Sept. 30 of each year is lost. Under the Special Leave Accrual (SLA) for COVID rules, service members could retain up to 120 days of leave from fiscal 2021 (Oct. 1, 2020, to Sept. 30, 2021) to fiscal 2022 (Oct. 1, 2021, to Sept. 30, 2022).

Extra leave carried over under the SLA rules must be used by the end of fiscal 2024, which is Sept. 30, 2024. This SLA leave balance had appeared on your LES as part of the regular leave balance.

However, on LESs for October 2021 and forward, the SLA overage no longer will be shown as part of the regular leave balance. Instead, it will show up as a line in the "Remarks" section at the bottom of the LES, and the current leave balance and "use or lose" blocks will reflect your current balance and the amount of leave you normally must use before the fiscal year runs out on Sept. 30, just like normal.

Since the SLA leave can be used for two more years, it's not as imperative for you to use it right away. So they moved it to another section to avoid cluttering up the already confusing LES leave blocks.

It is important to note that your personal leave maximum is set at the highest amount of leave you've had credited during the SLA period, from March 10, 2020, to Sept. 30, 2021. For example, if you previously had 87 days of leave, and you use 10 days, your new maximum will be 77 days of leave. If you fall below the regular 60-day limit at any time, you no longer will be protected under the SLA rules.

It also is important to know that leave generally is used on a "Last In, First Out" method of accounting. That means you'll use newly earned leave that is not subject to SLA rules first, then SLA leave, then any leave that you had on the books before the SLA period began.

While DFAS tries to keep up with leave balances, and generally does a good job, it is ultimately the responsibility of the service member to ensure that their leave accounting is correct from month to month. These rules can be a little confusing, so be sure to ask your personnel folks if you have questions.

Remember, as always, your pay is your responsibility.

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