This overview of gift issues is not
intended as ethics or legal advice for any particular gift transaction. Note
that acceptance of some gifts requires a written ethics opinion. We highly
recommend that you obtain an ethics opinion from your servicing legal office
before such actions as accepting donations valued at $350.00 or more or
$1,000.00 or more from one donor in a year; gifts of any value from
Government contractors (especially contractors working at the Warrior
Transition Brigade/Battalions); or cash from charities and other
Q: Why are there so many rules about gifts? How are we
supposed to keep it all straight? And do these rules really matter?
A: Gift issues are ethics issues. The Federal, Department
of Defense, and Army rules covering gifts are designed to ensure that those
we serve have confidence in our loyalty and honesty, and that we avoid even
the appearance of impropriety, e.g., it does not look like we accept bribes
or favors, or that we accept additions to our pay from outside sources just
for doing our jobs.
We take ethics rules seriously because they are the law; because we want the
public to trust us; and because ethics violations may hurt your military
career, ability to maintain a Federal security clearance, and perhaps even
your future as a non-Federal civilian (e.g., campaigning for public office,
background investigations for sensitive jobs, etc.).
You are always welcome to submit your questions about gifts through the
Warrior Transition Brigade S-3 to your servicing ethics counselor or our
ethics counselors at the Northern Regional Medical Command Office of the
Command Judge Advocate, or to have your chain of command do so for you.
Q: What is a gift for purposes of this FAQ paper?
A: Generally, a gift is anything of value given to you at
no cost or a reduced cost because you are a Soldier and/or because of your
duty position, whether services (e.g., taxi ride), events (e.g., football
game tickets), things (e.g., house, iPad, 6-pack of beer or soda), or
cash/cash equivalents (e.g., check, gift card, someone paying your bills for
you). Meals are also considered gifts.
Q: Are there any exceptions?
A: Yes, there are several exceptions. Here are some common
--Offers open to the public or all military, such as discounts offered by
car insurance companies, movie theatres, stores, museums, etc. Contests open
to the public or to all military, such as door prizes and other drawings,
newspaper contests, eighth caller to a radio station wins concert tickets,
--Gifts from family members and personal friends given on the basis of your
family relationship/friendship. The friendship issue can be a tricky one if
the friend also works as a Government contractor or is seeking to do
business with the Government. We suggest you consult with an ethics advisor
if you have any questions.
Q: Can civilian spouses accept gifts if their
Soldier-spouses cannot do so for ethical reasons?
A: If a gift is offered based on the spouse’s relationship
to the Soldier, the answer is no. For example, a Government contractor
offers $1,000.00 to an Army civilian spouse to cover Family bills. This type
of offer is based on the Soldier’s status as a Soldier and Federal/Army
ethics rules apply – not all spouses will be able to accept. The rules do
not apply if the gift is made for reasons unrelated to the Soldier’s status,
e.g., the spouse gets a $500.00 gift card as the Employee of the Month from
her civilian employer.
This same rule also applies to the Soldier’s parents, siblings, children,
and other dependents (e.g., stepchildren living with the Soldier).
Q: Are there different categories of Soldiers for gift
A: Yes. A special Federal gift law covers Service Members
and Civilians who are wounded, injured or ill due to post-9/11 contingency
operations. Another example is the Secretary of Defense has determined that
non-cash gifts from certain charities and veterans’ organizations made to
Service Members in the rank of E-6 and below would be acceptable. Other laws
and regulations cover other situations.
Keep in mind that your ethics counselor will look at all circumstances
surrounding a gift, not just whether someone is combat wounded or E-6 and
below. We also look to see if the gift was made because of the Soldier’s
duty position or high rank and must be declined (e.g., thank-you gifts
offered to military care providers or cadre from a Soldier in Transition’s
Family, gift offered to Commanding Generals or those working in a
contracting office) even if that Soldier is also post-9/11 combat-wounded or
E-6 or below.
Q: I heard that we may not solicit gifts. What does that
A: You may not ask people and businesses to give you gifts
based on your military status. For example, you and your Family may not
ethically create a Web site asking for donations based on your military
status and war wounds.
You may respond to open offers. For example, you know that a store chain
offers 10% military discounts; you may ask the cashier to apply the discount
to your purchase. You may respond to charitable Web sites that ask you to
apply for benefits. But please note – you, not the charity, are still
responsible for ensuring that ethics rules allow you to apply for a
Q: If a charity or veterans organization offers me a gift,
is it ok to accept it?
A: Not always. Regardless of the source of the gift and the
honorable, patriotic reasons it is being offered, you are responsible for
ensuring you are following ethics rules.
Q: How about gifts distributed by my unit, such as pizza
parties, iPods and gift cards?
A: Gifts given to the Warrior Transition Brigade and
subordinate units have first been processed by the Brigade S-3, reviewed by
the Northern Regional Medical Command legal office, and accepted by the
Commanding General, Northern Regional Medical Command. There is no
lower-level gift acceptance authority. Once accepted, gifts can be
distributed in accordance with the donor’s intent, which may limit who gets
the gift(s). Staff and cadre assisting with the event must ensure they know
who is authorized to attend donated events such as pizza parties, as well as
who may accept any gifts for distribution, such as gift cards. Other
organizations on the installation, such as the Soldier and Family Assistance
Centers (Army) or the Warrior and Family Coordination Cell (Navy), are
separate organizations with different gift acceptance rules and authorities.
If those organizations are giving you a tangible item, you are likely OK to
accept the item. If they are referring you to someone for you to seek a
gift, you may want to discuss what you would be doing with your S3 or ethics
counselor first to ensure you are not violating the ethics rules.