Last night, my husband and I watched a TV special on Pulitzer Prize winning photos. One of the featured photos was the one with the returning POWs (I’m sure you all know the photo I mean). Anyway, my old man and I got to talking about POWs and MIAs. I assumed (and my husband confirmed) that the families continued to get the POWs paychecks during their loved one’s imprisonment. But what about promotions? During a 6 year imprisonment like the one profiled on the show, the POW would come up for at least one advancement. My husband didn’t know whether the promotions (and pay increases) would become automatic under these circumstances. And what about the MIAs? Presumably, their families continued to recieve the paycheck for a set period of time (7 years? Less?) and then switched over to survivor benefits. If the MIA’s time of death was eventually pinpointed, would the family have to return the 7 years (or whatever) worth of paychecks? And, if the MIA was declared dead and survivor benefits paid out and he was then was found to be alive – would the family have to return the insurance money, or exchange it for prorated paychecks, or what? Anybody know?

Partial answer here -

When a soldier goes anywhere where hostile action is likely, (s)he signs forms indicating what is to be with his(her) pay in such a circumstance. There is also a clause indicating that it can be distributed as determined by the Secretary of the Army.

I can’t say for sure, but believe promotions occur “in due course” (not accelerated for battlefield heroics, but not delayed until repatriation, either).

Families, or the personal savings account, of an MIA service member continue drawing full pay & benefits until such time as the Secretary of the Army declares the service presumed dead, at which point, the “family” (wife & kids, but not parents) switches to survivor benefits, or the savings of the service member (his estate) get distributed according to his will. Benefits are determined by the Secretary’s determination, not actual date of death if this becomes known long afterward. If a service member is later found alive & is not subject to courts-martial for desertion/aiding the enemy, etc., he would collect full pay & benefits for the time since he was declared presumed dead, minus the amount paid out in survivor benefits.

DISCLAIMER: I am NOT a finance person. I have not served in a hostile-fire zone. I have attended the Officers Advanced Course, and have deployed in support of hostile fire situations (was is Hungary supporting the initial peacekeeping action in Bosnia). What I’ve stated is simple recall, not quoted out of the regs. I believe it to be accurate, however.

Sue from El Paso