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WASHINGTON — President Bush was to sign the fiscal 2008 Defense authorization bill into law Monday, White House press secretary Dana Perino said earlier in the day.

The signing will belatedly activate a bigger pay raise and more than two dozen bonuses owed to troops.

The measure, passed by Congress in December, was vetoed by Bush on Dec. 28 over concerns that one overlooked provision could freeze billions in Iraqi government reconstruction funds held in U.S. banks.

Congress finalized a revised version Tuesday, removing that language and backdating pay increases and bonus language to the start of the calendar year.

The measure calls for a 3.5 percent pay hike for all military personnel, 0.5 percent above what troops saw on Jan. 1. The difference is about $9 a month for an E-3 with four years service, and just over $13 a month for an E-5 with 10 years service.

Even though the extra pay increase is retroactive, Defense officials said servicemembers won’t see the extra cash until mid- or late-February, because payroll officials won’t have time to process the new rate for the end-of-January payroll period.

They added that backdated bonuses will likely take a few more weeks as well. Since Jan. 1, the services have delayed payment of 26 bonuses and specialty pays while waiting for reauthorizing language included in the legislation.

The list includes some six-year re-enlistment bonuses worth up to $90,000, the Army’s enlistment referral reward of $2,000, and a host of special pay and incentives for health professionals.

The $696 billion authorization bill, which sets spending priorities and policy for the fiscal year, also includes language allowing troops to carry up to 75 days of leave from one year to the next and allowing certain deployed troops to sell back up to 30 days of unused leave.

It also elevates the Chief of the National Guard Bureau to a four-star general; guarantees combat veterans mental health evaluations within 30 days of their request; establishes a Family Readiness Council to better coordinate family programs; and sets aside nearly $5 billion for efforts to combat roadside bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan.


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