July 23, 2008

Wyden, Grassley, Klobuchar Introduce Bill to Fix Troop Pay Problem

Delay left out 20,000 eligible servicemembers

Washington, D.C. - Working to ensure troops receive the pay they've earned on their tours in combat zones, U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) today introduced a bill, which would fix a problem in the distribution of leave time under Post Deployment and Mobilization Respite Absence (PDMRA). Over 20,000 servicemembers 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 bill would reimburse soldiers who were left out during that period.

"Our troops should not be punished because of a bureaucratic delay," said Wyden. "This bill will let troops collect the benefits they have rightfully earned by serving our country with honor. They shouldn't be penalized because the Pentagon didn't file the paperwork to create this program fast enough."

"This bill will benefit hundreds of Iowa National Guard troops who served in the War on Terrorism, including many who served with the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 34th Infantry which was one of the longest serving units in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Members of the Iowa National Guard have answered the call of duty again and again in recent years and these troops should receive all the benefits they rightly deserve," Grassley said.

"Our promises to our nation's soldiers shouldn't be wrapped in red tape," said Klobuchar who last year helped Minnesota's National Guard receive educations benefits that had been denied because of a technicality. "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."

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.