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Restrictions, Responsibilities, and Rights


Service in the armed forces carries with it a responsibility to the government and the American people that occasionally restricts your private and public activities. This chapter discusses how regulations restrict your freedom of action. It also presents ways to avoid conflicts between your personal interests and your responsibility to the Army and discusses your responsibilities as a citizen. Finally, it discusses the benefits that you have by virtue of military service, to include free legal advice under the Legal Assistance Program. Thus, this chapter deals with restrictions and responsibilities in the conduct of your personal affairs and your rights as a member of the military.


The following paragraphs address restrictions on your private activities.


You may work as a salesclerk in a retail store. Otherwise, you may not sell goods or services to other soldiers who are junior to you in grade, on or off post, in or out of uniform, and on or off duty. The sale of goods and services includes but is not limited to the sale of insurance, stocks, mutual funds, and real estate. However, you may sell your own personal property or home on a one-time basis to a junior soldier.


Off-duty employment, or moonlighting, is permissible if it does not interfere with official duties, does not bring discredit upon the Army, and does not violate basic ethical considerations.

For example, if you work late at a civilian job and then report for duty so tired that you cannot perform well, your job interferes with official duty. Working for a bookie is an example of an off-duty job that could discredit the Army. You must obtain written permission from your commander to work off duty for nonappropriated-fund activities on the installation. Examples of such activities include the post exchange, officers club, noncommissioned officers club, enlisted club, bowling alley, library, and rod-and-gun club. You may not work off post in areas where jobs are generally scarce and where your employment would deprive local civilians with the same job skills. Also, you may not accept employment with a civilian employer after the employer becomes involved in a strike. However, if you are already on the payroll when a strike begins, you may usually continue working.


You may not accept gifts from junior military or civilian personnel unless the gifts meet the following criteria:

  • They are given voluntarily.

  • They are worth $180 or less and have sentimental value to the recipient.

  • They are given on a special occasion such as a marriage, illness, reassignment, or retirement.


You may not accept gratuities from businessmen and private companies that either do or seek to do business with the Army or the Department of Defense. Exceptions include unsolicited advertising and promotional items that have a retail value of less than $10.


You may use government property only for official business. If you are going to school during off-duty time, for example, you may not use Army paper or an Army typewriter to prepare homework. This rule applies to all Army personnel. It is equally improper for a military superior to require junior soldiers to perform personal duties for him.


You generally may not gamble while on government-owned or -controlled property or while on duty. Gambling includes lotteries, pools, games for money or property, and the sale or purchase of number slips or tickets. Some gambling activities, however, are allowed but only if specifically approved by Headquarters, Department of the Army. Before participating in any gambling activity on Army property or while on duty, you must ensure that the activity has proper approval from Headquarters, Department of the Army.


You may not use your rank, position in the Army, or membership in the Army to endorse any business or any business's product. For example, you may not appear in uniform in a television commercial to advertise for a local business such as a used car company. Nor may you appear in civilian clothes on a television commercial to advertise for a business and say that you are a soldier. Similarly, you may not allow a business to advertise using your name and rank. For example, a business may not advertise in a local newspaper that "SP4 Jones says he was very pleased with our company's product." Different rules apply to retired soldiers, however.


You have the same basic rights as all citizens. However, many rights, including the most basic right of freedom of expression, are different for you as soldiers because of the need for discipline. American tradition requires that soldiers will not publicly dispute civilian leaders. Also, freedom of expression has limitations to prevent the public from attributing soldiers' views to the Department of the Army. For example, you may write letters to editors giving your views, but you should never identify yourself as speaking for the Army. You probably should not sign such letters with your military rank and title. You may write articles for publication but must get permission from your commander to publish articles on foreign policy, military matters, or operation of the national government.


You may vote and express your opinions on politics privately and informally. You may attend political rallies and political club meetings and may even join political clubs, but you must never wear your uniform when participating in political activities. The reason is to prevent the public from incorrectly assuming that your participation represents the Army. You may not--

  • Seek election to a political office.

  • Campaign for a political candidate.

  • Speak to political rallies or clubs.

  • Hold office in political clubs.


Your uniformed attendance at a public demonstration may also give the appearance that the Army approves of or sponsors the demonstration. To preclude this appearance, you may participate only when you are off duty. You may not wear the Army uniform at any demonstration, and you may not--

  • Attend a demonstration held on a military post.

  • Attend a demonstration in a foreign country.

  • Participate in a demonstration where law and order might be breached, such as traffic being blocked or police being assaulted.


Underground newspapers are not prohibited if you produce them off post with your own time and money. Mere possession of an underground newspaper generally is not reason enough for the commander to take it from you. An installation commander may, however, require that you obtain his approval before you distribute underground newspapers on post. If the contents violate federal law, you may be disciplined for distributing them. You may not distribute a publication that presents a clear danger to loyalty, discipline, or morale or that interferes with the accomplishment of a military mission without the prior approval of the installation commander.


The following paragraphs discuss taxes and motor vehicle registration, which are your responsibilities as a citizen.


You must comply with the income tax laws of your home state, or state of domicile. Regardless of whether your home state taxes your income, you are not required to pay taxes on your military pay to your duty state, or state of station, if it is different from your home state. You must, however, pay taxes on any nonmilitary income to both your home state and the state in which you earn the income. Your nonmilitary spouse may have to pay income taxes to both your home state and your duty state.


You must pay personal property taxes on your solely owned personal property to only the home state. Although many states grant credit for personal property taxes paid to other states, property jointly owned by you and your spouse may be fully taxed by both your home state and your duty state. Personal property solely owned by your nonmilitary spouse may be taxed only in the state where it is. Real property is taxed by the state in which the property is located regardless of whether the owner is a soldier or a civilian.


If you have registered or licensed your solely owned motor vehicle in your home state, you need not register the vehicle in your duty state. However, you may not avoid registration in your duty state by registering it in a third state that is neither your home state nor your duty state. You may be required to comply with the safety inspection and emission control laws of the state where the vehicle is registered, the state where the vehicle is located, or both.


The following paragraphs address your rights as a military member.


Congress has passed laws governing payment to you for losses as a result of your military service. Not all losses resulting from Army service are reimbursable. For example, a loss that is partly your fault is not reimbursable. Army judge advocates around the world process claims under the supervision of the US Army Claims Service. Army Regulation (AR) 27-20 covers the basic claims procedures.

Certifiable Claims

You may have a claim against the government if--

  • Missing property is stolen from government quarters, from private quarters located outside the United States, or from an authorized storage place. Warehouses, offices, hospitals, baggage holding areas, and unit supply rooms are examples of authorized storage places.

  • Property in government quarters or storage is damaged or destroyed by fire, flood, hurricane, theft, vandalism, or other unusual occurrences. Hail damage to an automobile parked on post and damage caused to property in the barracks when a water pipe breaks are examples of unusual occurrences.

  • Property, including privately owned vehicles, is lost, damaged, or destroyed while transported or stored under government orders.

  • Property is lost, damaged, or destroyed as a direct result of enemy action, riots directed against Americans overseas, soldiers giving first aid in a public disaster, and soldiers saving human lives or government property.

  • Money is lost after being delivered to an authorized person as part of that person's official duties. Safekeeping in the unit and deposit in the Savings Deposit Program are examples.

  • Property is lost or damaged due to wrongful or negligent acts of Army agents.

Claims Procedures

Although you have every right to file a valid claim, filing a false claim is a crime. You must be prepared to prove your damage or loss. Contact your unit claims officer when you believe you have a claim against the government.

If your unit does not have a unit claims officer, talk to the claims judge advocate at the post judge advocate office. Claims for less than $1,000 may be processed as small claims. Because this method is less formal, the investigating and processing may take only a short time. If you do not agree with the amount allowed on your claim, you have the right to a review.


When you discuss a problem with a legal assistance attorney, you create an attorney-client relationship. The attorney may not disclose information from his discussions with you without your consent or unless extraordinary circumstances exist involving criminal violation of the law.

The Army provides free legal advice and services to you and your family members on a number of issues. Following is a discussion of the most common of these.

Preparation of Wills

A legal assistance attorney may determine if you need a will, may prepare a new will, and may review your existing will to ensure it is up-to-date.

Powers of Attorney

Your spouse may use a power of attorney to clear government quarters, to ship the family car, or to cash your paycheck during your absence. Special powers of attorney are designed to confer limited authority for a short period and do not pose a great risk to you. However, general powers of attorney can be quite dangerous because they give great power and are difficult to revoke.

Family Matters

Legal assistance attorneys can provide guidance regarding the legal aspects of marriage and divorce. Chaplains, counselors, and Army community service representatives can help you and your family solve nonlegal problems in these areas. If your marriage is not salvageable, the legal assistance attorney may advise you on separation and divorce. Help is also available at most offices on paternity matters, adoption, support obligations, and name changes.


Commanders may initiate administrative or disciplinary action against you if you fail to pay your just debts. Legal assistance attorneys can advise you and your family about the lawfulness of alleged debts and can help you decide what course of action to take. Army community service offices provide financial and budget counseling and can assist you in developing payment plans and budgeting schemes.

The Soldiers' and Sailors' Civil Relief Act (SSCRA) provides some relief with respect to loan interest rates and the payment of debts. The protection only applies, however, if the debt arose before your entry to active duty and your financial position is substantially worse since you entered the service. In the absence of a military draft or a reserve component call-up, few voluntarily enter the service if they will suffer serious financial harm. Consequently, few of those who voluntarily enter the Army will receive this type of protection from the SSCRA.

Civilian Matters

Army attorneys may represent you in civilian court to resolve your personal legal problems. For you to qualify, normal civilian legal fees must create a substantial financial hardship for you. Generally, married soldiers in the grades of E-4 and below and single soldiers in the grades of E-3 and below meet the requirements for financial hardship; soldiers in other pay grades may also qualify based on their circumstances. Any soldier may check with the legal assistance office to see if a court representation program is available at his installation. The legal assistance attorney may also be able to give you preliminary advice on civilian criminal matters.

Military Matters

In most cases, the legal assistance office does not defend you in military criminal matters and administrative separation actions. Instead, trial defense service attorneys help you with problems in these areas. At most installations, however, the legal assistance attorneys can provide advice concerning such administrative matters as liability under reports of survey and appeals of adverse evaluation reports.

Court Appearances

The SSCRA permits you, if you are unable to appear in court due to military service, to post-pone the proceedings until you can get leave. To obtain such a delay, you must have tried diligently to appear in court and must request a delay for the shortest reasonable time. Although attending court is often quite difficult during wartime, getting leave to attend during peacetime is typically not difficult. Judges are unlikely to grant you delays merely for your convenience.


Not all problems are legal problems. You should learn which command sections can help you find solutions. For example, the finance office handles pay problems, and the adjutant general's office processes promotion questions. Appendix A shows which offices can best help with specific problems.

Emergency Services

Several emergency services are available to you to handle crises. The Army Community Services Program provides information, assistance, and guidance to you and your dependents in meeting personal and family problems beyond the scope of your own resources and capabilities. It administers the Army's Family Advocacy Program, which seeks to promote a healthy family life for you and your family and to prevent spousal and child abuse. The Army emergency relief office can give interest-free loans and, in the case of extreme hardship, free cash grants to you and your dependents. The Red Cross can provide the following:

  • Consultation on family and other personal problems.

  • Financial assistance in certain emergency situations.

  • Referrals to agencies that can assist in employment matters.

  • Medical or psychiatric care.

  • Children's welfare counseling.

  • Emergency communication between you and your family when regular communication facilities are inadequate.

Emergency Leave or Compassionate Reassignment

Emergency leave and, in many cases, space-required transportation on military aircraft may be available in the event of a death in your immediate family or other urgent personal problems. You may qualify for a compassionate reassignment if you can show evidence that--

  • An extreme family problem exists that you can solve only by reassignment and not by leave or correspondence.

  • You can solve the problem within a reasonable period--usually one year.

  • The problem did not exist or was not reasonably foreseeable at the time you last came on active duty.

In the case of both emergency leave and compassionate reassignment, the Red Cross will assist in getting information on conditions at your home. You should request emergency leave or compassionate reassignment from your unit commander.

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