About City To Revise Calculation Of Pay Owed By Veterans
|November 11th, 2006||#1|
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City To Revise Calculation Of Pay Owed By Veterans info
November 11, 2006
By Damien Cave
More than 1,400 city employees who were called up for military service after 9/11 will no longer have to reimburse the city for a certain portion of their military pay, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said yesterday.
Under a five-year-old policy, city workers are required to return the lesser of their military or their city pay, which continues during deployment, on returning to their jobs. Veterans groups and others had criticized the city for counting food and housing allowances as military income in its calculations. But Mr. Bloomberg said in his weekly radio address that the city would count only salary, excluding such allowances.
“Living in a tent and eating K rations in the desert while you’re worried about somebody coming along and killing you isn’t exactly income,” the mayor said. “I don’t think anyone really thought about it.”
Plans for adjusting the policy had been in the works since September, after veterans and Councilman Michael E. McMahon of Staten Island complained that city agencies were demanding more than their fair share from men and women who had risked their lives to serve in Iraq and elsewhere.
Mr. Bloomberg said the change would cost the city $24 million and apply retroactively so that city employees who had already paid, based on the old formula, could be reimbursed.
For the 1,466 reservists who stand to benefit, the new benefits policy will mean holding onto thousands of dollars that would have otherwise been returned to the city’s coffers.
Michael Kelly, a recently retired police officer who was called up by the Naval Reserve for part of 2001 and 2002, said he would get to keep at least $10,000.
Michael Zak, 35, a police officer and father of one whose Marine Corps Reserve unit was activated in 2001, said that his family would hold onto about $15,000 of the roughly $35,000 he had been asked to pay the city.
Mr. Zak called the city’s decision “a Veterans Day gift.”
“I think the city stepped up and did the right thing,” he said. “Most veterans in my position would be very grateful.”
He and other veterans thanked Councilman McMahon for lobbying the mayor on the issue. But they said that at least one other problem still needed to be resolved: The city is still demanding that the veterans, 85 percent of them in the Police, Fire, Correction or Sanitation Departments, repay their gross salaries rather than the smaller amount they take home after taxes.
Mr. Bloomberg has said that two tax preparation firms, H&R Block and Jackson Hewitt, have agreed to provide free tax advice to help reservists maximize their benefits.
But Mr. Zak said it would be simpler if city employees paid back only what they actually received.
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