March 10, 2009

Bipartisan Legislation Would Secure Back Pay for U.S. Troops

Paperwork Delay Affects More Than 20,000 Service Members

Washington, D.C. - Working to ensure that U.S. service members receive all of the pay earned while serving in combat, U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Tom Harkin (D- Iowa), Ben Nelson (D-Ne), Pat Roberts (R-Ks) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) introduced legislation today to retroactively pay soldiers for leave earned under the Post Deployment and Mobilization Respite Absence (PDMRA).

Over 20,000 service members have not received their earned leave due to a delay between the announcement of the leave program by the Department of Defense and the establishment of the program by the individual services. The Senators' legislation would reimburse soldiers who were left out during that period.

"Service members shouldn't be penalized because the Pentagon took their time filing paperwork," said Wyden. "This legislation honors the intent of the original program by ensuring that the brave men and women who earned paid-leave by serving in harm's way actually get paid for it."

"Hundreds of members of the Iowa National Guard have been unnecessarily cut out of earned benefits because of a bureaucratic snafu," Grassley said. These patriots were part of one of the longest serving units in Operation Iraqi Freedom and have continued to answer the call to duty again and again. They shouldn't have to wait for what they rightly deserve."

"Our promises to our nation's soldiers shouldn't be wrapped in red tape," said Klobuchar. "Many of these soldiers have put their lives and families on hold to serve our nation. We must make sure they get the benefits they have earned, and we owe it to them to fix this quickly."

"It is unconscionable to withhold the rightfully earned leave pay of nearly 600 Iowa National Guard troops that have bravely served our country," said Harkin. "This legislation takes aim at the bureaucratic roadblocks that shorted our soldiers and makes sure that this does not happen again."

"At a time when our men and women in uniform are returning to a country experiencing a far-reaching economic crisis, we must ensure that our promises to them are fulfilled," said Nelson. "There are over 200 National Guard members in Nebraska who have gone without pay that was promised to them. Our brave soldiers deserve better and must receive what they have rightfully earned."

"As a former Marine, I am pleased to co-sponsor this bill as I believe our Military members and their families deserve nothing less," Roberts said. "This retroactive pay is long overdue to those who sacrifice to protect our nation."

Menendez said: "The brave men and women of our military have been returning home from a warzone to our nation's worst economic situation in generations. A grateful nation makes sure they have, at the very least, a helping hand as they transition to civilian life back home. This is the least we can do to support our troops."

PDMRA leave was designed to provide service members who were deployed beyond established rotation cycles to Iraq and Afghanistan (and in specific instances to Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Kyrgyzstan) additional time to reintegrate back into civilian life, as well as to help with retention of service members who had experienced long tours.

The delay in implementation varied from service to service. The Department of the Army didn't issue its corresponding policy for implementing PDMRA until more than six months after DoD's January 19, 2007 issuance date. During this gap, thousands of soldiers from the National Guard and Army Reserve alone separated from the service, and did not receive proper compensation for their PDMRA leave.

Under the bill, DoD's Personnel office would have the legal authority to pay a $200 per day benefit retroactively.