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DoD releases policies to ensure access to non-covered reproductive health care

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On Oct. 20, 2022, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III released a memorandum, “Ensuring Access to Reproductive Health Care,” directing the department to take a series of actions to ensure service members and their families can access non-covered reproductive health care. These policies reinforce Austin’s commitment to taking care of our people, ensuring their health and well-being and ensuring the force remains ready and resilient.

On Feb. 16, the Department of Defense released the directed policies on command notification of pregnancy, administrative absence for non-covered reproductive health care and travel allowances for non-covered reproductive health care. These policies will be effective within 30 days from today to allow the military departments time to implement and incorporate these policies into their service regulations and to allow time for service-specific guidance to be developed.

The policy on command notification of pregnancy provides service members the time and flexibility to make private health care decisions while accounting for the responsibility placed on commanders to meet operational requirements and protect the health and safety of those in their care. This policy standardizes and extends the timeframe for service members to inform their commanders about a pregnancy, generally allowing service members until up to 20 weeks of pregnancy to notify their commanders of their pregnancy status, with limited exceptions to account for specific military duties, occupational health hazards and medical conditions.

The policy for administrative absence for non-covered reproductive health care provides service members the ability to request an administrative absence from their normal duty station to access non-covered reproductive health care without being charged leave. Service members may be granted an administrative absence to access or accompany a dual-military spouse or a dependent on accessing non-covered reproductive health care.

Travel and transportation allowances may be authorized for service members and dependents to travel to access non-covered reproductive health care. Travel and transportation allowances may be authorized when access to non-covered reproductive health care services is unavailable within the local area of the member’s permanent duty station, temporary duty location or the last location the dependent was transported on government orders. The non-covered reproductive health care is at the service member’s expense.

Our service members and their families do not control where they are stationed, and due to the nature of military service, they are frequently required to travel or move to meet operational requirements. The efforts taken by the department today will not only ensure that service members and their families are afforded time and flexibility to make private health care decisions, but will also ensure service members can access non-covered reproductive health care regardless of where they are stationed.

For more information on the department’s actions on non-covered reproductive health care, visit here.

For comprehensive information and resources related to women’s and gender-specific care, information about reproductive health, and information about the full range of contraception methods and TRICARE benefits for contraceptive services, visit here.