Unless Congress extends a provision to pay for meals for wounded troops
staying in hospitals, a temporary provision to cover the $8.10 daily meal fee
will expire Sept. 30.
In November, Congress and the White House agreed on a law that exempts some
hospitalized troops from paying the meals charge, even while collecting their
Basic Allowance for Subsistence.
"The Department awaits further direction on whether the Congress will provide
supplemental legislation to extend the exemption beyond fiscal year 2004," said
Pentagon spokesman James Turner.
And those who already paid and are waiting to collect on reimbursements must
wait a little longer, he said.
"Before reimbursements can be made, the policy has to be completed and
published, which will allow appropriate reimbursement determination and payment
to affected personnel," Turner said. Officials are aiming for it to be done
between April and June.
In the meantime, troops who paid the $8.10 a day for meals are encouraged to
save receipts and paperwork in order to help in the collection of those
reimbursements once the Pentagon figures out the process.
The provision was included in the $87.5 billion emergency supplemental to
continue operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and
applies to troops wounded, injured or who become ill while in combat zone or on hazardous
duty. It is retroactive to Sept. 11, 2001.
The process isn't as easy as it might appear, said Lt. Col. Carl Smith,
deputy director of patient administration at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in
As of March 15, Walter Reed has treated about 2,830 patients from Operation
Iraqi Freedom since the war began; 506 have been battle casualties.
"It's a pretty cumbersome process," Smith said. "We have to come up with a
mechanism to identify soldiers [who were charged] and follow them through and
find out where they are now."
It also is task of coordinating between offices, Turner said.
"The reimbursement process requires collaboration among the Office of
Personnel and Readiness, Health Affairs, the military departments and the
Defense Finance and Accounting Service," Turner said.
"The policy will address servicemember- and former-servicemember-identification,
validation that the hospitalization qualifies for exemption, and the
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