Fedweek

There must be a connection between the voluntary military service and the declared national emergency Image: iama_sing/Shutterstock.com

There are limits to the “differential pay” that makes up for the difference between the military pay of a federal employee on active military duty as a Reservist and the person’s federal salary, a federal appeals court has ruled.

Case No. 2021-2280 before the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit involved an SSA employee who was activated to military duty with the Army Reserve for five months but who was denied the differential pay on grounds that he was serving voluntary active duty. When he challenged that denial to the MSPB, a hearing officer ruled that the pay applies only to a call to order under certain conditions or “during a war or national emergency.”

On appeal, he argued that he qualified because a national emergency has been in effect since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. However, the court cited a prior case in which it rejected a similar argument that it said “would have entitled differential pay to every federal employee ordered to duty since September 11, 2001, regardless of the nature of their service.”

“There must be a connection between the voluntary military service and the declared national emergency,” it held. As in the prior case, the employee “has not alleged any connection between his service and the declared national emergency other than a temporal overlap between his activation and the declared national emergency” which “is not enough” to meet the law’s standard.

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2023 Federal Employees Handbook