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Bill Authored For R&R Reimbursements
By Sandra Jontz
Stars and Stripes
European Edition

March 18, 2004,

ARLINGTON, Va. Two U.S. senators from Minnesota have introduced a bill to reimburse troops for their Rest and Recuperation travel expenses from September through December.

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 Pentagon leaders.

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 House.

"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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This article is provided courtesy of Stars & Stripes, which got its start as a newspaper for Union troops during the Civil War, and has been published continuously since 1942 in Europe and 1945 in the Pacific. Stripes reporters have been in the field with American soldiers, sailors and airmen in World War II, Korea, the Cold War, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Bosnia and Kosovo, and are now on assignment in the Middle East.

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Copyright 2004 Stars & Stripes. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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