DoD Report: Improve Combat Pay For Lower Ranking Troops

The current system of combat pay for younger enlisted troops is unfair because while facing the greatest danger in combat deployments, low ranking soldiers receive a much smaller share of the financial benefits given to more senior officers, finds a newly released report by the Department of Defense.

The Quadrennial Review of Military Compensation [PDF] finds that overall pay compares favorably to the private-sector but the military should implement changes in combat and incentive pay. Specifically, the authors identify that establishing differentials in hazardous duty pay would more fairly compensate those soldiers who are exposed to the greatest dangers.

The report recommends that the DoD set “Hostile Fire Pay” at an amount higher than “Imminent Danger Pay” and establish “more than one level of Imminent Danger Pay to recognize different levels of exposure to danger.” Financial burdens on deployed soldiers could be lightened by instituting tax credits to replace the “Combat Zone Tax Exclusion.”

“Even if their tax bill is zero, they are going to get that credit back if it is refundable,” he added. The combat tax credit would be linked to coming under hostile fire, Tom Bush, the study’s director, told the Armed Forces Press Service.

The DoD should establish a “general career incentive pay authority” that isn’t linked to a specific career field but can offer career incentive pay in any field deemed critical, finds the report. President Obama’s letter of instruction to the review panel specifically identified mental health as one of those critical fields.

Statistics released by the Associated Press this month show that an average of one military suicide occurred each day in the first six months of 2012. “We must continue to fight to eliminate the stigma from those with post-traumatic stress and other mental health issues,” Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta wrote in an internal memo. “[We] cannot tolerate any actions that belittle, haze, humiliate or ostracize any individual, especially those who require or are responsibly seeking professional services.”