Deployed Troops May Finally Get Long-Overdue Payments
A broken Pentagon promise to tens of thousands of deployed troops nationwide, including hundreds in Minnesota, is about to be fulfilled, with the first payments of extra benefits going out as soon as later this month, according to military officials.
"These first 190 (soldiers) should be paid by the end of October at the very, very latest," Minnesota National Guard Lt. Col. Matt Vatter told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS Monday.
In all, about 800 Red Bulls who left Minnesota in May 2011 for a year-long deployment to Iraq and Kuwait are eligible; others among the 2,900 Guard soldiers may also qualify for the Post Deployment/Mobilization Respite Absence Program (PDMRA).
The Pentagon changed the rules for PDMRA eligibility while the Guard soldiers were deployed overseas and did not exempt units currently deployed, despite the fact the benefits had been promised at the time of their deployment. Soldiers returned to find that they had been stripped of the extra paid leave they had been promised, which would have included supplemental compensation such as a housing allowance and health benefits.
The last large Red Bull deployment, in 2005-2007, experienced the same loss of PDMRA benefits.
"It's a little disappointing that we kind of ran into the same thing twice," Lt. Col. Vatter explained in an interview. "But understanding that it's not always the same people that are making the decisions. Sometimes, different people can make the same mistakes."
Minnesota National Guard specialist Richard Leonard, a single parent in Woodbury raising a seven year-old son, is due about $2,200 in extra pay. Since the troops are no longer on active duty, the military is issuing payments at a rate of $200 per day of leave each soldier would have already been entitled to. The Pentagon reversed itself and agreed to partially honor the benefits agreement only after an act of Congress, pressed for by Minnesota's Congressional delegation. The benefits affect an estimated 49,000 soldiers nationwide.
"When you promise something to soldiers, that needs to be fulfilled," Leonard said while sitting on his back patio with his son nearby.
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Click here to watch our story from July 13, 2012 that first exposed that even with the congressional action, the pay would not be delivered for several months.