Defense bill boosts ceiling for hardship duty pay
WASHINGTON — Congress approved a boost in hardship duty pay in its 2006 Defense Authorization bill, but troops shouldn’t expect to see an increase in their paychecks right away.
Defense Department spokeswoman Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke said officials have no near-term increases in HDP planned at this time. Instead, she called the change in the monthly stipend from a maximum of $300 to a cap of $750 important to “meet future needs as they emerge.”
“Under normal circumstances, the current $300-per-month statutory cap is adequate,” she said. “However, the increase in the monthly statutory cap to $750 will give the DOD an important tool to rapidly recognize troops serving under the most arduous of circumstances.”
The hardship pay is one of several stipends offered to troops for arduous living conditions or stressful assignments. Congress increased it in the budget bill as part of a series of pay and benefits changes designed to help military recruiting and retention.
The stipend currently is awarded in two parts. Hardship duty mission pay is $150 given to troops performing certain mortuary affairs jobs, like those in the Defense POW and Missing Personnel Office.
Hardship duty location pay of up to $150 is given to troops living in regions with a lower quality of life than a typical American city. The maximum of the HDP-L and HDP-M combined is $300, and will be raised to $750 under the budget bill.
Krenke said a region’s security, climate and remoteness, and housing conditions go into determining the amount of HDP-L. Under department rules, areas considered severely deficient in all three areas are designated for the full $150, unless troops there already receive an imminent danger stipend.
That can create some unusual bookkeeping. While troops in Iraq and Afghanistan receive the maximum imminent danger pay and HDP-L available, $325, only $100 of that comes from their HDP-L.
But the same department formula awards $150 in HDP-L for troops serving in Alaska, considered an overseas tour of duty under defense rules.
Krenke said the security compensation part of the HDP-L is dropped for stipends in Iraq and Afghanistan, since the imminent danger pay is designed to cover that.
“In other words, the member is not compensated for personal security issues under two separate pay authorities,” she said.
Meanwhile, since the imminent danger pay is not available for troops in places like Alaska, they receive the full $150 HDP-L but actually take home less in total stipends than their counterparts in combat zones.
The hardship pay maximums increase won't be official until the president signs the defense bill into law.
Specialty pay stipends under current rules