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McNerney introduces military pay hike bill

By Lisa Vorderbrueggen
Thursday, July 31st, 2008 at 3:30 pm in 2008 November election, Congress, congressional district 11.

Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, introduced today legislation that would increase pay rates for the military’s most dangerous jobs.

The Combat Operations and Medical Benefit Authorization for Our Troops Act would also raise wages for servicemembers undergoing rehabilitation after evacuation from combat zones and hike salaries of the psychologists and other medical personnel who care for them.

In addition, military personnel involuntarily separated from their spouses and children would receive an increase.

Co-authored by reps. Tim Bishop, D-N.Y., John Hall, D-N.Y., and Bob Brady, D-Pa., the bill comes as Congress prepares to head home for its summer break where many face arduous re-election campaigns.

McNerney, a Democrat in a district with a small Republican Party registration lead, has actively sought to advocate for veterans.

“Raising pay for soldiers who encounter injuries, hazardous duty and separation from their families is the right thing to do,” said McNerney, a freshman running against Republican challenger Dean Andal of Stockton.

The bill focuses on eight types specialty pay given to service personnel. Categories include working under hostile fire, imminent danger or other hazardous conditions.

Read more for McNerney’s full press release.

HONORING OUR MEN AND WOMAN IN UNIFORM, MCNERNEY INTRODUCES BILL TO UP MILITARY PAY

Washington, D.C. – In recognition of the grueling demands on soldiers who routinely face danger while serving our country overseas, as well as the stress their families encounter, Congressman Jerry McNerney (CA-11) today introduced legislation to increase hazardous duty, imminent danger, family separation and other types of military specialty pay.

Rep. McNerney introduced the Combat Operations and Medical Benefit Authorization for our Troops (COMBAT) Act, H.R. 6686, in the House this afternoon. The bill’s cosponsors are Rep. Tim Bishop (NY-1), Rep. John Hall (NY-19), and Rep. Bob Brady (PA-1).

“The multiple consecutive deployments that our troops face in Iraq and Afghanistan often include traumatic experiences such as sectarian violence and serious personal injuries that call for difficult rehabilitation. Raising pay for soldiers who encounter such injuries, hazardous duty and separation from their families is simply the right thing to do. Some of these types of pay haven’t been raised in years,” Rep. McNerney said after introducing the bill.

“Also included is an increase in the payment rate for military psychologists. Ensuring that the military can retain quality psychologists is critically important as worry grows about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other mental health concerns our troops and veterans face,” Rep. McNerney continued.

In fact, according to a recent RAND Corporation study, only about one-third of Operation Iraqi Freedom soldiers and marines who screened positive for a mental health condition reported receiving mental health care while deployed. And just 32 percent of soldiers who were interested in receiving mental health services actually received treatment.

The COMBAT Act has the support of several Veterans Service Organizations, including the VFW and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA).

“On behalf of the 2.3 million members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States and our Auxiliaries, I am pleased to support the efforts of Rep. McNerney and applaud his leadership for sponsoring this measure to improve the military compensation system,” said Michael Wysong, Director VFW National Security & Foreign Affairs. “This legislation appropriately conveys that our government acknowledges and appreciates the sacrifices made by those who have answered the call to defend our great nation.”

“The men and women of our Armed Services are routinely asked to serve in the most dangerous areas under conditions that most would find unacceptable, yet are inadequately compensated for their tireless efforts when compared to their civilian peers,” said Patrick Campbell, Legislative Director, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. “An increase in combat and separation allowances recognizes the extraordinary efforts made by members of the armed services on behalf of our Country. Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America appreciates Congressman McNerney’s leadership on this critical issue.”

Rep. McNerney’s bill increases eight types of military specialty pay, many of which have not been increased for several years. They are:

1. Hostile Fire and Imminent Danger

a. Hostile Fire Pay is for service members exposed to hostile fire or explosion of hostile mines. Increases to $600 per month.

b. Imminent Danger Pay is for service members serving in specifically designated places deemed to pose a threat of physical harm or imminent danger due to insurrection, war, or terrorism. Increases to $350 per month.

Note: Hostile Fire and Imminent Danger pay cannot be collected simultaneously.

2. Family Separation Pay

Partial reimbursement for those involuntarily separated from their dependents for extra expenses that result from such separation. Increases to $450 per month.

3. Special Warfare Officer Continuation Pay

A service member may be paid a retention bonus of up to $20,000, an increase from $15,000, for each year of retention if that service member.

4. Hazardous duty pay

This specialty pay is available to service members who encounter particularly hazardous types of duty, including:

· frequent and regular participation in aerial flight as a crew member;

· parachute jumping as an essential part of military duty;

· explosive demolition as a primary duty, including training for that duty;

· the testing of aircraft or missile systems (or components of such systems) during which highly toxic fuels or propellants are used, or

· the handling of chemical munitions (or components of such munitions);

Hazardous duty pays range from $150 to $450 per month of which service members can receive up to three per month. Rep. McNerney’s legislation raises each type of hazardous duty pay by $50.

5. Combat-Related Injury & Rehabilitation Pay

Service members who were medically evacuated out of a combat zone and considered “hospitalized” are entitled this type of pay. Increased to $600 per month.

6. Psychologists and Non-physician health care provider specialty pay

Pay for psychologists and other types of medical professionals who treat members of the military. The same RAND study referenced above found that DoD salaries for civilian psychologists and social workers are not competitive with rates provided in the civilian market, or the VA system, which increases the “likelihood that DoD will lose civilian providers to the VA system as they learn that they can earn substantially higher salaries for performing essentially the same job.” Given the concern about retention of psychologists and medical professionals, Rep. McNerney’s bill doubles the amount of Psychologist and Non-physician health care provider specialty pay.

7. Service as member of Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team

The term “Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team” means a team of members of the reserve components of the Armed Forces in support of emergency preparedness programs to prepare for or to respond to any emergency involving the use of a weapon of mass destruction. Increased to $300 per month.

8. Members extending duty at designated locations overseas

Pay for a service member who has completed a tour of duty at a location outside the continental United States who, at the end of that tour of duty, executes an agreement to extend that tour for a period of not less than one year. Increased to $200 per month or $3,000 lump sum yearly payment.

A PDF copy of the COMBAT Act is available on Rep. McNerney’s web site:

http://mcnerney.house.gov/pdf/COMBAT_bill_07-31-08.pdf

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