ARLINGTON, Va. — Two U.S. senators from Minnesota have introduced a bill to
reimburse troops for their Rest and Recuperation travel expenses from September
On Wednesday, House lawmakers are set to tackle a Senate bill that makes
reimbursement retroactive to the program's start, instead of beginning with
those who traveled on or after Dec. 19.
In mid-January, Pentagon officials released information about the "Onward
Travel" program to pay travel expenses to get troops to their hometowns, but
limited reimbursements to Dec. 19, the day the program policy was approved by
U.S. Central Command began its R&R program Sept. 25, flying troops deployed
on 12-month orders to Iraq and Afghanistan to the United States or Germany for
a 15-day break from the combat zone.
At first, the military flew troops only as far as Frankfurt, Germany, or
Baltimore-Washington International Airport in Maryland. Later, airports in
Atlanta, Dallas-Fort Worth and Los Angeles were added.
In October, Congress recommended the Army move $55 million between accounts
to pay for troops' domestic travel costs in order to get them all the way home.
The Senate bill, S. 2057, would make reimbursements retroactive to the
beginning of the R&R program. It passed the Senate on March 4 and now rests in
"The intent of our legislation is absolutely clear: the Pentagon needs to
reimburse the travel costs for troops traveling home on R&R leave, whether that
took place before or after Dec. 19, period," said Republican Sen. Norm Coleman
in a statement. "Troops on leave from defending freedom abroad deserve that
this legislation be followed."
"The Coleman-Dayton amendment clearly intended that all R&R travel for all of
our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan be covered equally. Congress appropriated
$55 million specifically for this purpose; therefore, there is no reason for
noncompliance," said the bill's co-author, Democratic Sen. Mark Dayton.
The Pentagon said it needs congressional authority to reimburse troops who
traveled before Dec. 19.
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