There are lots of great benefits that come with working in the military. Among them are guaranteed basic pay, tax-free allowances and paid vacation, just to name a few.
But if you’re called on to make a bigger sacrifice than usual for your service, you might be eligible for even more benefits, especially if you have to face dangerous living conditions abroad.
Hardship Duty Pay (HDP), which is a type of Special and Incentive Pay, has been available to members of the military since 1999. If you’re serving in extreme circumstances, like in a combat zone or on a life-threatening mission, you could be eligible for HDP.
What is Hardship Duty Pay?
Hardship Duty Pay is a type of special pay available for members of the military when they serve in extreme living conditions. In particular, HDP can help when you live in conditions far worse than in the continental U.S, or if you’re sent on a difficult mission. HDP is also available for some service members who have to quarantine after being exposed to COVID-19.
Types of Hardship Duty Pay
There are multiple types of HDP, and you could be eligible to receive more than one at a time. Here’s an overview of what’s available:
Hardship Duty Pay-Location (HDP-L)
HDP-L is a location-specific version of military Hardship Duty Pay. To qualify, you must be assigned outside the continental U.S. for more than 30 days, in a location with living standards substantially lower than most service members experience in the U.S.
These are some examples provided by the Department of Defense:
- Arduous living conditions
- Excessive physical hardship
- Unhealthful conditions
In terms of pay, you can receive either $50, $100 or $150 a month from HDP-L, depending on your location. The designated locations change from time to time, but North Korea and Ukraine are among a handful of countries that currently qualify for the highest pay amount.
You can find all of the qualified locations and corresponding pay in the DFAS pay table.
Hardship Duty Pay-Mission (HDP-M)
HDP-M is for officers and enlisted members who perform difficult missions that go beyond their normal duties. Qualified missions could include recovery of servicemember remains in remote and isolated parts of Vietnam or Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Unlike HDP-L, you can qualify for HDP-M even if you serve for fewer than 30 days. You can also combine the full benefit ($150 a month) with HDP-L pay to receive a total of $300 a month.
Hardship Duty Pay-Tempo (HDP-T)
HDP-T compensates service members who are assigned to spend extended time outside of their permanent duty station (PDS). HDP-T programs have not yet been implemented by any military departments, but when they become available, the benefit could be up to $500 per month.
Hardship Duty Pay-Restriction of Movement (HDP-ROM)
Starting on March 13, 2020 HDP-ROM was made available to servicemembers and their families who are dealing with certain costs associated with COVID-19. You could qualify for HDP-ROM if you’re facing all of the following circumstances at once:
- You’re ordered to restrict your movements due to having COVID or being exposed to COVID.
- You’re not on official travel orders.
- You’re unable to isolate at home or a government-funded facility, and you have to pay out of pocket for lodging.
How Much Is Hardship Duty Pay?
The amount of HDP you receive will be based on several factors, including your location and the amount of time you serve there. During your hardship, you can potentially qualify for the following:
- HDP-L: Up to $150 a month.
- HDP-ROM: $100 per day, for up to $1,500 per month.
- HDP-M: Up to $150 a month.
- HDP-T: Not currently available.
Note that you may be restricted from combining HDP with certain types of special pay, like Hostile Fire Pay, and your maximum HDP benefit may be reduced if you’re receiving specific types of special pay.
Restrictions for Hardship Duty Pay
The restrictions for Hardship Duty Pay depend on each type of HDP. In some cases (but not all) you might not qualify if you serve in a hardship condition for less than 30 days, for example. There may also be restrictions on the benefits you receive in combination with HDP.
For more information about military pay, eligibility and restrictions, contact these sources:
- DFAS Customer Service: 1-888-332-7411 or DFAS.mil
- USA.gov: 1-844-USAGOV1 (1-844-872-4681)
You can also speak to your chain of command to find out more.
Is Hardship Duty Pay Taxable?
Most military allowances are not taxed, but, unfortunately, special pay isn’t one of them. Unless you were in a combat zone when you received Hardship Duty Pay, you have to include it with your gross income on your taxes, just like your basic pay and bonus pay.
If you need more information or guidance when it comes to filing taxes, help is available. You can use MilTax to file for free, and Military OneSource offers free financial counseling and tax services to help you navigate issues with HDP and more.
About The Author
Sarah Brady is a Personal Finance Writer and educator who's been helping people improve their financial wellness since 2013. Sarah writes for Experian, Investopedia and more, and she's been syndicated by Yahoo! News and MSN. She is a workshop facilitator and former consultant for the City of San Francisco's Affordable Home Buyer Programs, as well as a former Certified Housing & Credit Counselor (HUD, NFCC). Sarah can be contacted via sarahcbrady.com.
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