All active-duty troops will receive their usual pay and allowances on time for the mid-month pay period on Oct. 15, and the check will likely include most incentive pays and re-enlistment bonuses, Pentagon officials said Tuesday.
In a statement posted on its website, the Defense Finance and Accounting Service said: “Normal pay and allowances have been processed and you will receive them in your mid-month pay. The amount reflected in your mid-month statement will be deposited.”
A Pentagon official, who spoke on background Tuesday evening, said that DFAS was expected to issue detailed guidance Wednesday on the numerous types of incentive pays and bonuses that will be included in next week’s checks, but most incentive pays would likely be covered.
DFAS currently lists more than 60 incentive pay programs, ranging from the $225 monthly hazardous duty pay for troops in Afghanistan to flight pay, jump pay, flight deck pay and other incentive pays.
The incentive pay programs have been a matter of contention since Congress passed the “Pay Our Military Act” just before the government shutdown on Oct. 1 to ensure that basic pay and housing allowances for servicemembers would continue.
Pentagon officials initially said it was unclear whether the Treasury Department would have the money to cover incentive pays during the shutdown, while congressional Republicans argued that the Pay Our Military Act should be read broadly to include incentive pays.
The issue of interpretation of the Pay Our Military Act came to a head Tuesday when death benefits of $100,000 that normally go out within 36 hours to the families of fallen troops were put on hold for the families of four soldiers and one Marine who were killed in Afghanistan last weekend. The benefits were expected to be paid retroactively once the shutdown ends.
The Pay Our Military Act only authorized the Defense Department to make payments during the shutdown directly to servicemembers, and not to their families, a Pentagon official said. The Defense Department was anxious to make the death benefit payments, but the legislation “does not authorize any payments to family members of servicemembers and therefore cannot be used to legally justify the payment of survivor benefits,” the official said.
Members of Congress quickly took to the floors of the House and Senate to trade blame for the failure to pay death benefits and pledged to pass legislation to authorize the payments.
“Shouldn’t we be embarrassed about this? Shouldn’t we be ashamed? What do the American people think?” Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., asked. He urged lawmakers to “sit down and talk like grownups” on ending the shutdown.
“For the families who lost five loved ones, it is an unbearable loss,” said Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., the Senate majority leader. “Now they are being denied death benefits because of this senseless shutdown."
In a statement, Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., said that in passing the Pay Our Military Act “we believed that 'death gratuities' would continue to go to the families of those heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice. Without question, that was our clear intent.”
“However, we can never let the welfare of our troops and their families become pawns in a political contest,” McKeon said. “If the Pentagon believes they need more explicit authority to disburse these payments, I am sure the House will provide it in very short order."