Hardship pay authorized for some civilians, but not military, in Japan
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Federal civilian workers in some areas of Japan began receiving extra pay this week as compensation for hardship following the country’s natural disaster and nuclear crisis, even though some of those regions are hundreds of miles from the devastation.
Additionally, the hardship pay does not extend to U.S. military members or Department of Defense civilians working at U.S. military bases where voluntary evacuations are ongoing due to radiation fears, according to U.S. Forces Japan officials.
Nine areas of Japan including some northern prefectures are covered by the new hardship pay benefit, which gives civilian workers a 10-percent boost in base compensation, according to the State Department. Also included are Tokyo, Yokohama and Nagoya. Tokyo and Yokohoma are more than 100 miles from the damaged Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant. Nagoya, home to a U.S. consulate, sits another 163 miles southwest of Tokyo.
Civilian workers at U.S. military bases in central and northern Japan including Yokota Air Base, Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Camp Zama, Yokosuka Naval Base and Misawa Air Base do not qualify for the hardship pay benefit, State Department tables show. Hardy Barracks in the Roppongi ward of Tokyo, which houses the Pacific bureau of Stars and Stripes, appears to be the only U.S. military installation covered by the pay change made effective Sunday.
About 7,000 military family members voluntarily evacuated from those bases over the past three weeks as Japan struggled to contain radiation from the Fukushima plant after it was critically damaged by a massive 9.0-magnitude earthquake and deadly tsunamis March 11.
Essential Department of Defense workers, including teachers, have been required to stay in the country.
On Wednesday, Stars and Stripes requested an explanation from the State Department of how the pay areas were determined, but received no response by Friday. The department determines cost-of-living, housing and post allowances for civilians working overseas.
Department guidelines say the hardship pay benefit will be given “when, and only when, the place [of work] involves extraordinarily difficult living conditions, excessive physical hardship, or notably unhealthful conditions affecting the majority of employees officially stationed or detailed at that place.”
The allowance will remain in effect until the end of the State Department’s authorized departure program, according to a State Department memo.
Elevated levels of radiation have been detected around the crippled Fukushima plant, which is 148 miles northeast of Tokyo, as well as in Japanese produce and Tokyo water. But so far there is no evidence that the health of residents at U.S. military bases is being affected by the leaking reactors.