Working for respite benefit compensation for Iowa troops - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Working for respite benefit compensation for Iowa troops

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -- Unpaid benefits are one step closer to being in the hands of thousands of troops across the nation, including hundreds from Iowa.

In January 2007, the Department of Defense initiated a new program called post deployment mobilization respite absence (PDMRA).  It offered extra time off for deployed troops, and that time off could be swapped for compensation equal to $200 per day.

However, there was a gap between the time it was announced and when it took effect in different departments of the armed forces.

During that gap of time about 600 soldiers with the Iowa National Guard's First Battalion, 133rd Infantry were serving in Iraq.  They were deployed from October 2005 to July 2007, earning respite leave for several months until the National Guard began awarding it in August 2007.  They joined about 22,000 National Guard troops who did not receive respite benefit payments.

Representative Bruce Braley aimed to change that.  Braley toured the Waterloo Guard Armory Tuesday explaining his plan that's already half-way complete.

"I'm very happy that my bill that was called 'Guaranteed Benefits for our Troops,' which made it mandatory that these benefits be paid was incorporated into the defense authorization bill that President Obama recently signed, and we're also working to make sure that the 'Defense Appropriations Bill' includes funding so that there can be no question that these respite leave benefits be paid," Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA) said.

"Two years ago, I didn't think that we'd ever be to this day where we're on the cusp of getting these benefits paid to the soldiers that's earned 'em, but we're there right now," Colonel Ben Corell said.

Troops with the 133rd will again be mobilized soon.  The Department of Defense last month announced about 3,500 Iowa National Guard soldiers were alerted for potential mobilization to Afghanistan.

Online Producer: Mike Verlo

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