Monday, April 02, 2007

DoD to cut danger pay in some overseas areas

The Defense Department on Friday announced it will remove six overseas locations from its list of areas that qualify U.S. service members for imminent danger pay, but will increase hardship duty pay for four of those locations, with all the changes to take effect Nov. 1.

Imminent danger pay of $225 per month will no longer be paid to U.S. troops serving in the African nations of Angola and Sierra Leone; the former Soviet republic of Georgia; and Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia and Macedonia in the Balkans.

At the same time, monthly hardship duty pay will increase for U.S. troops serving in Angola, Georgia and Sierra Leone to $150 per month from the previous level of $100, and will be set at $100 per month for Macedonia, which previously did not qualify U.S. troops for any hardship duty pay.

Pentagon officials said the changes result from a routine, periodic review.

During the same review, defense officials had considered downgrading the status of Kosovo as a designated combat zone and removing it from the list of locations that qualify U.S. troops for imminent danger pay because the level of violence there has greatly diminished since the late 1990s. Along with eliminating the $225 per month in danger pay, that also would have stripped troops of the tax benefits that allow them to exempt their income from federal taxes while serving in a combat zone.

Defense officials reversed course after the proposal drew criticism from Congress. In a letter last month to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, 18 lawmakers urged him to maintain the status quo on compensation for U.S. troops in Kosovo because it continues to be “a region with an unstable government and outbreaks of violent lawlessness.”

About 1,700 National Guard and reserve members began serving a one-year tour in Kosovo in December as part of the NATO peacekeeping force that remains on duty in the province.

Imminent danger pay is paid at a flat rate of $225 per month to U.S. troops serving in overseas areas in which they are exposed to “the threat of physical harm or imminent danger on the basis of civil insurrection, civil war, terrorism, or wartime conditions.”

Hardship duty pay is paid to service members assigned to locations where the quality of life is “substantially below that most members in the U.S. generally experience,” defense officials said. Factors considered include physical environment, living conditions, and personal security. It is paid at rates of $50, $100 or $150 per month, depending on the degree of hardship in each qualifying location as determined by the Pentagon.

Link to DoD to cut danger pay in some overseas areas - Military News, Army News, opinions, editorials, news from Iraq, photos, reports - Army Times