Congressmen ask Pentagon to extend R&R reimbursements
ARLINGTON, Va. — Three U.S. congressmen have asked the Pentagon to reimburse all troops who paid for plane tickets home while on the Rest and Recuperation program from Iraq and Afghanistan — and not limit reimbursements to those who paid their own way since mid-December.
In a letter sent to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Reps. C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger, D-Md., Jim Ramstad, R-Minn., and Dennis Moore, D-Kan., asked for a reconsideration of the way reimbursements will be doled out.
In October, Congress recommended the Army shuffle $55 million between accounts to pay for troops domestic travel costs.
As executive agent for the R&R program, the Army adopted Congress’ suggestion, but limited reimbursements to Dec. 19 because that is when the official “Onward Travel” policy was approved by Pentagon leaders.
The program kicked off Sept. 25, letting troops travel home for 15 days. But once troops arrived in the States to one of three designated airports, they had to pay their own way to their hometown.
“This means thousands of servicemembers who by chance were granted R&R before December 19 and paid for their travel with their own money will not be reimbursed but those who traveled after that date will be,” reads a portion of the letter. “We believe this policy is completely unfair and should be changed so that all troops who dug deep into their pockets to pay their own way home will be reimbursed.”
Ruppersberger created a program called “Operation Hero Miles,” in which people can donate frequent flier miles to help troops pay for the tickets home.
Though the Army now is picking up the domestic travel costs, Hero Miles continues to pay for troops returning home on emergency leave, and to pay for families’ trips to military hospitals to be with troops wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan.