Confusion Hovers over Pay, Bonuses in Shutdown

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The status of incentive pay, bonuses and tuition assistance for the military was caught up Friday in the politics of the government shutdown.

For the second day, the Defense Department put off issuing guidance to the services on how to deal with vital matters of pay and benefits to the troops during a prolonged shutdown while Republicans and Democrats haggled over tactics for ending or easing the impasse.

The guidance, if it is to come, would likely have to be issued by Monday at the latest to ensure that checks would go out as initially scheduled for Oct. 15, Pentagon officials said.

Officials said the guidance was meant to clear up the confusion left by the Pay Our Military Act, passed in by Congress and signed by President Obama two hours before the shutdown at midnight Tuesday morning. The Defense Finance and Accounting Service’s website as of 10 a.m. on Oct. 5 had a message stating that officials are “awaiting further guidance from the Department of Defense to ensure we accurately implement all elements of the Act.”

The services have been authorized to pay the incentives, bonuses and tuition assistance, but there isn’t enough money coming in during the shutdown from the Treasury Department to the Defense Finance and Accounting Service to cut the checks, according to spokesmen for the services.

However, action by the Pentagon on guidance would have to await the outcome of moves by House Republicans expected to begin Saturday to pass several bills, including one to guarantee the pay of furloughed federal workers, aimed at easing the impact of the shutdown.\

The White House and Senate Democrats have opposed the “piecemeal” effort by the House Republicans, and have instead demanded that House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, allow the passage of a “clean” continuing resolution to fund the government – minus amendments to defund or delay the Affordable Care Act.

"The administration strongly opposes House passage of piecemeal fiscal year 2014 appropriations legislation that restores only very limited activities," the White House Office of Management and Budget said in a statement Friday.

In the continuing blame game over the shutdown, House Republicans have countered that the White House and the Senate Democrats were refusing to negotiate and blocking efforts to ease the burden of the shutdown.

At a news conference Friday, Boehner angrily took issue with an unnamed White House official, quoted by the Wall St. Journal, who allegedly said that the White House was “winning the game” of public opinion on the shutdown.

"This isn't some damn game," Boehner said. "The American people don't want their government shut down and neither do I."

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney denied that anyone in the administration had spoken in terms of “winning the game,” and added that it was "utterly false" to suggest that President Obama did not want a speedy end to the shutdown.

"We want this to end now. Period," Carney said.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars was against a piecemeal approach to easing the impact of the shutdown that threatened the timely delivery of veterans services and benefits, said VFW Commander-in-Chief William A. Thien.

“We expect more from our elected leadership, and not a piecemeal approach that would use the military or disabled veterans as leverage in a political game,” Thien said in a letter to President Obama and the Republican and Democratic leadership of the House and Senate.

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