What is Terminal Leave in the Military? (Explained)

Blog Written by JOHN COTTON / Fact-checked by LOGAN MILLER

what is terminal leave in the military

What is Terminal Leave in the military? Also known as separation leave, terminal leave is applied when a service member is about to be discharged. This is similar to any other type of leave, except you do not need to report back at the end of terminal leave. Instead, you’ll just proceed with your transition to civilian life.

Read on for more detailed instructions.

Military Terminal Leave Explained

Here are the things you should know about your separation from the military and active duty, as well as the process of going from GI Joe to regular Joe.

What is the meaning of terminal leave?


If you’re nearing the end of your active duty as a US military service member and entering retirement, to submit terminal leave or transitional leave could make you better prepared for your transition.

Transitioning from active duty to civilian life could be daunting. Time away from command duties to give you a leg up to get your affairs in order before retiring is an example of terminal leave.

USMC, Air Force, and Navy terminal leave policy could have minor differences depending on your duties, command, and other circumstances. It is best to coordinate with your command for further instruction.

During this time, you can complete administrative processing on your way out of military service; surrendering gear and IDs, for example.

Also, this is the time when you have time away from your duties to prepare for your future. It is crucial that you use this time to help you become better prepared for a life post-military.

Terminal leave pay includes full pay, BAH or Basic Allowance for Housing, and BAS or Basic Allowance for Subsistence.

How long is the military terminal leave?

If you’re wondering how much terminal leave can I take, the length of terminal leave calculator is based on unused leaves and is granted and approved by your command. The maximum days given is 60 days, but extensions can be granted if emergencies arise.

Purpose and Benefits


Service members can take advantage of the terminal leave in transitioning easily back to civilian life. Usually, job hunting Navy, USMC, or Air Force service members take advantage of the extra time to secure their future outside their military careers.

Terminal leave military is also advantageous for setting up other prospects for those planning on relocating.

How does it work?


There is an entire section about terminal leave army regulation in manuals. These policies slightly vary based on whether you are serving in the US Army, Marine Corps, Air Force, or Navy.

Basically, terminal leave is ordinary leave charged to a soldier’s accrued leave account. It is often used for transitioning to retirement.

Every service member is entitled to 2.5 days of accrued leave every month. Which amounts to almost a month or 30 days per year. They can use these days as ordinary, emergency, or terminal leave.

Requesting for leave can be filed at any point in your active duty. Note that leave approval would still depend on your command, your operational duties, and your requirements.

Service members can also opt to sell their accrued leave if they wish, instead of applying for terminal leave.

Pros of Terminal Leave

Assuming that you have maximized your terminal leave, you will be better prepared to transition into your civilian life while still enjoying the pay and benefits of your military career.

With good planning and execution away from active duty, you can find employment, housing, and schools for your children.

Cons of Terminal Leave

There are no real downsides to taking terminal leave other than you’ll have less money in your pocket when you retire compared to selling your accrued leave to the military. But this relies heavily on your needs or priorities.

What Can I Do With It, Sell or Use It?

Depending on your current situation, this is all up to you. Take into consideration your current situation and ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you set up for life outside the military?
  • Do you have employment lined up after military retirement?
  • Do you need to relocate and is your housing situation taken care of?

If you on the other hand have everything aforementioned taken care of, you may consider to sell back your military leave.

How to Sell Back Accrued Leave?


Reenlisting, extending an enlistment, or retiring from service makes you eligible to sell back accrued leave.

It is based on your pay rate, excluding allowances and other special benefits.

In selling leave days army, there are two things to note in the terminal leave rules:

  • The maximum number of days you are allowed to sell back is 60 days from your entire military career.
  • You are only eligible to sell back upon retirement and only with an honorable discharge.

Types of Leave in Military


    • Ordinary leave

    Ordinary leave is a paid leave for personal reasons. These could include holidays, vacations, family matters, or any other personal reasons.

    These can be used on workdays, weekends, holidays, or anytime you leave your assigned station. Approval is under discretion and defined by your command.

    • Emergency leave

    Emergency leave is taken in response to an emergency situation involving the service member, family, or close relations. This leave is usually approved quickly with pay and is a charged leave.

    • Convalescent leave

    Convalescent leave is granted to a service member to aid their return to active duty in the event of injury, sickness, or maternity. The length of convalescent leave can be up to 30 days. It is a non-chargeable paid leave with the approval and discretion of your doctor and commanding officer.

    • Expanded parental leave

    This is granted to service member parents, both adoptive and birth parents. 12 weeks are given to eligible members within a one-year period, starting on the birth date of the child or the official legal start of guardianship.

    For birth parents, this could be stacked on top of a convalescent leave to give way for childbirth recovery and parental adjustments.

    • Reserve Component Maternity Leave (RCML)

    RCML is granted to a reserve component member from inactive duty training or IDT after childbirth.

    Within one year, starting on the birth date, eligible reserve component members are allowed up to 12 IDT periods of approved absences.

    During RCML, they will still be entitled to receive inactive duty pay, special pay, incentive pay, bonuses, and retirement points credited to them.

    • Terminal leave

    This is a regular, chargeable leave applied before retiring from active duty.  You are allowed to use your remaining leave balance instead of selling it to the military, with a maximum of 60 days.

    • Permissive Temporary Duty (TDY)

    Permissive TDY or Permissive leave is given to military members with a maximum of 10 days to facilitate a Permanent Change of Station or PCS. This allows military members to move within the 50 states including DC without charging them for leave. Also, during permissive TDY, there are no daily pay and transportation allowances.

The Best Time to Use Terminal Leave

The only time that would make sense for you to apply for terminal leave is right before you retire from active duty. So the best time is before your expiration-term of service or ETS.

Refer to your contract for your ETS date; when you are free to leave military service. You can use your terminal leave before your ETS, pending command approval.

How to Maximize Your Leave

During your leave, you should be executing choices and plans that have been mapped out ahead of time. It is not the time to make choices, but the time to act on them.

For example, instead of choosing a job, apply for a job. Instead of choosing a school, enroll in the said school or prepare the materials that you might need. Instead of contemplating where to live, visit and make offers on properties you’re interested in. Get the picture?

Be mindful of the start and end date of your leave and make sure to take time for yourself to relax.

Lastly, while you still have active military benefits, make sure you take advantage of them while you still can.

Frequently Asked Questions


Do you get paid on terminal leave and how to calculate the money?

Yes and you will still recieve BAH or BAS. To calculate for the value, it is based on 1/30th of your daily base pay. A 25 percent federal tax is deducted from the final pay on top of other state taxes.

Can terminal leave be denied?

Anyone nearing their ETS date can apply for terminal leave. However, approval is at the discretion of your command, and it’s based on various factors, including operational requirements.

Can I take 90 days?

No. Except for emergencies, the maximum days allotted for terminal leave is 60 days and is at the discretion of your commander.


So now you know what is terminal leave in the military, it all boils down to whatever you need more; extra time or extra money in your pocket.

If you’re wondering what type of leave is for you, it’s totally up to you and your current situation.

Provisions in the military like the terminal leave aid in your smooth transition back to civilian life. Ultimately, the decision rests on you and how you use that extra time to prepare for the next chapter in your life.

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