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What Is Terminal Leave in the Military & Type of Military Leave

Written by Everett Bledsoe / Fact checked by Brain Bartell

what is terminal leave in the military

If you are preparing to enter the military or are a family member of military personnel, it is a good idea to know common military jargon such as “terminal leave”. This is actually the name of a military policy, so it is certainly worth knowing what it means. That being said, we will answer “What is terminal leave in the military?” in this article. We will also cover important information on military terminal leave. Therefore, be sure to read the rest of the content! Specifically, we will go through:

Military Leave 101

First, let’s look at the general definition of military leave. According to Wikipedia, leave refers to a military personnel’s permission to “depart” from a unit for a certain amount of time.

The military leave policy is applicable for all branches of the U.S Armed Forces. Every personnel has 30 days of leave per year. However, this may differ depending on other circumstances, such as whether it’s peacetime or wartime.

A leave lasts longer than three days or is taken in the middle of the week. A member usually uses it for vacation. Leaves are recorded in members’ “leaves and earnings statement”.

Similar to leave is a pass. A regular pass is a weekend day off. Pass days are not counted in the 30-day-per-year rule. After four consecutive day-offs, it is considered a leave day. Leaves days are deducted from the annual 30 days Army leaves regulation.

The 30-day leave time can roll over to the next year. But any service member may only carry up to 60 days of leave. In this case, it is a “leave or loss” situation. If you do not use the leave days, you will lose them. Sometimes, this can be extended to 80 days, though it’s quite rare. If there are unused days and the member finishes military commitment while having them, he or she will be paid the regular rate for them upon separation.

Pass and leave days can be taken consecutively. However, the member must sign in and out by himself or herself on leave. Another rule is that leaves taken on weekends or through the weekends (Saturday and Sunday) are still counted. A leave from Wednesday to Monday, for instance, will count as 6 days off (Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday).

If you have watched military films, you will see that there are occasions where military members are awarded pass days. This can be for particular achievements or exceptional performance. It is commonly a 1-day or 3-day pass.

By now, it should be self-explanatory that you cannot simply leave whenever you want to. If you are absent without an authorized leave, it is considered an attendance issue and misconduct (AWOL).

Now that we know what military leave is in general. Let’s find out the meaning of the terminal leave meaning. In essence, terminal leave is a type of military leave.

Types of Military Leave


There are seven types of leaves: ordinary leave, terminal leave, emergency leave, convalescent leave, excess leave, permissive temporary duty (TDY), and block leave.

We will now take a closer look at each of them!

1. Terminal Leave

Before retiring or separating from the military, personnel can take his or her accumulated remaining leave. This is also commonly referred to as accrued leave or transitional leave. The latter name is because members use it to transition back into civilian life.

On terminal leave, the military member will not have to complete military duties but still get a paycheck along with other benefits like medical coverage, basic housing allowance, and basic subsistence allowance.

It is like paid leave for civilian jobs. The processing for the leave must be prior to the amount of time the member wants to take. For example, if a member has 30 days of leave left and will retire on May 30, he or she can take the leave from May 1, but the leave must be authorized before May 1. As part of the processing, you will turn in your military gear and I.D.

Members in active-duty service, including Reserve and Guard members, accrue two and a half days every month. While there is no “best” time for terminal leave, it is recommended to take your leave before your ETS, or while you are home or job hunting. Because, this way, you can prepare for your post-military life.

If you do not want to take your terminal leave, you can “sell” your days back to the military. The value is 1/30 of the base for everyday cash in. However, keep in mind that this is not deducting taxes yet.

If you are contemplating between going on terminal leave or selling back your leave, consider watching this Youtube video.

2. Ordinary Leave

Ordinary leave refers to regular leave time that is chargeable.

3. Emergency Leave

Emergency leave is when the leave is processed more quickly because of an emergency. But it is still counted as a chargeable leave.

4. Convalescent Leave

Convalescent leave is a leave that is non-chargeable and only permitted if there is a doctor’s note and signature saying the service member must be excused from duty for a period of time.

5. Excess Leave

As suggested by its name, excess leave is when a member takes more leave than his or her given accrued leave time. This type of leave is non=chargeable.

6. Permissive Temporary Duty (TDY)

Permissive temporary duty (TDY) is also a non-chargeable leave. It usually lasts for 20 days and is used when a service member travels between stations for government-related purposes.

A member who uses this type of leave is not charged but cannot receive travel pay. Typically, it is used for a permanent change of station or when looking for a place to live.

7. Block Leave

This is when all or most of a unit in the military takes a leave. Usually, this happens during the holidays and observances, like Christmas. It also occurs in the summer and after deployment.

Other Things Worth Noting About the Military Terminal Leave

There are a few terminal leave Army policy changes amidst the COVID pandemic, as follows:

  • Military members can accumulate leave days in excess of 60 to 120 from the 11th of March to 30th of September, 2020. This is deemed a special leave accrual and can be retained until the end of the fiscal year 2023. However, any leave after the 30th of September, 2020 will be lost if they are not used up by the 1st of October, 2021.

Tips to Make the Most Out of Military Terminal Leave


Getting the answer to “What is terminal leave in the military?” is one thing. But knowing how it applies to you is another. Here is a section with tips for you to make the most out of your leave. To maximize your military terminal leave, here are a few things you should do:

1. Spend time on yourself

First on this list is to make time for yourself. Military life was not easy. It was filled with peril and stress. So, this is the time to get away from that. You can travel, spend time with your loved ones or indulge in self-care activities.

Regardless of what you do, make it your number one priority to relax and decompress. This is also incredibly important to get a smooth transition out of military life and into civilian life.

2. Secure your housing

Second on this list is housing. You need to make sure that you have a home to return to when you separate or retire from the military. There are many options for housing, so it is crucial that you spare time to research and weigh between them.

Will you resettle with your family? Or will you need to go house hunting? If it is the latter, do not forget that looking for a place to live is a lengthy process, and definitely do not wait until the last minute!

3. Secure a job

This is one of the most difficult tasks when returning to civilian life. Hence, using your terminal leave time to get a head start is smart.

Use the time you have to apply for jobs, go to job interviews, and/or obtain job qualifications like degrees and certificates. This is a must for a seamless transition back into the civilian world. It is a productive way to spend your terminal leave time.

Trust me, you will be glad you used your given time wisely.


With that, you have gotten information to your question. You also should have picked up relevant information about military leave in general.

Regardless of whether you are a soon-to-be service member, a military family member, or a soon-to-retire member, the above information should be helpful. If there is anything else you would like to ask or add, reach out to us in the comments! You are also welcome to bookmark this article for future reference and share this article’s content with other readers.

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