Lightening the load - New law gives returning veterans a financial break

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City employees called to serve in Afghanistan or Iraq will now receive a little more financial security thanks to a recently signed state law.

The law, introduced by Bay Ridge/Marine Park State Senator Martin Golden, changes the formula requiring city employees shipped off to the war zone to pay back their city salaries in a short amount of time.

“A lot of people talk about doing the right thing for our service people. This bill does something meaningful by helping correct a technical problem,” said Golden.

“Many of these people [city employees] are used to putting their lives at risk for the people of New York City. We shouldn’t be creating a hardship for someone who has been protecting our democracy,” he added.

Under the old plan that had been in place for the past several years, city employees in the military reserves or National Guard called up to duty in Iraq and other combat zones received full city pay in addition to their military pay.

They then had to repay the lesser [city or military] full amount within five years of their return.

This requirement for sudden repayment created a hardship for many soldiers, said Golden.

Additionally, under the old law, if a soldier was killed in combat or left their city employment, they or his or her family would be required to pay back the city within 90 days.

Under the new ordinance, the payback time doubles from five years to 10 years, and only the net, not the gross pay of city money received will have to be paid back.

The new law also removes any payback from the family if the individual dies in combat or any other way.

The new law also puts in a differential clause that state government, some municipalities and some in the private sector already utilize.

This clause has the abovementioned entities pay out only the differential in salaries between military and city pay, thus allowing the soldier to keep their city benefits.

For example, if the soldier’s pay is $500 and the city pay is $1,000, then the city will only pay $500.

Returning soldiers are not required to pay back this differential pay.

“On 9/11, New Yorkers showed the best of their characters. Not only did we pull together to meet immediate crisis, we showed that we were in it for the long haul,” said Golden.

“Many of our public employees, such as police and firemen, joined the National Guard or the Military Reserves. They continued serving New Yorkers in the mountains of Afghanistan and in the deserts of Iraq. We owe it to them to protect them from a technical glitch,” he added.

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