Ellison: More money for MN Guardsmen fighting Ebola

Friday, November 21, 2014

Via Kare 11:

MINNEAPOLIS - Minnesota U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison says the 700 Minnesota National Guard soldiers being deployed to West Africa to help stop the spread of the deadly Ebola disease deserve more than $5 a day extra in hardship pay.

The Democratic congressman has written Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel asking for an increase in hardship pay commensurate with the guard members' sacrifice. Ellison's letter says "providing training and equipment in Ebola hot zones and building infrastructure in remote areas during the rainy season carry manageable, but high-stakes risks."

Maj. Gen. Neal Loidolt has said the 698 soldiers with the 34th Red Bull Infantry Division being sent to Monrovia, Liberia, will receive proper training and equipment before their April deployment and will not be involved in hands-on treatment of Ebola patients.

Below is the letter that Ellison and a number of lawmakers wrote jointly to Hagel.

Dear Secretary Hagel:

We write to urge you to increase hardship compensation for military personnel deployed to fight Ebola in West Africa. The military's efforts to slow the spread of Ebola in Operation United Assistance will save thousands of lives. Our men and women in uniform are making sacrifices every day in West Africa for the greater good and must be recognized. The conditions on the ground are difficult and our military personnel deserve more than an additional $5.00 a day in hardship pay.

The Ebola epidemic is a global public health and humanitarian crisis that has devastated Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea. As of last week the total number of estimated cases increased to more than 13,000 and the virus has claimed over 5,000 lives. The U.S. military is currently performing an invaluable service by building the infrastructure and providing the supplies needed to help stop the spread of Ebola. Operation United Assistance is an example of how our brave men and women in uniform put themselves at risk to protect our country and prevent humanitarian crises across the globe. Hardship duty pay should reflect the sacrifice that our forces make.

The arduous conditions in all of the West African countries where our military has been deployed to fight Ebola qualify for hardship pay. Liberia was removed from the list of places where U.S. service members qualify for imminent danger pay in January. As the country struggles to recover from 14 years of civil war, electricity, water, health care and other critical infrastructure are lacking. Providing training and equipment in Ebola hot zones and building infrastructure in remote areas during the rainy season carry manageable but high-stakes risks. Moreover, the necessary personal protective equipment make work so difficult that health care workers and lab technicians can only work for short periods of time before risking heat stroke and dehydration.

Title 37, section 305 of the U.S. Code gives discretion to the Secretary of Defense to increase hardship duty pay up to $1,500 per month. We respectfully request that you consider increasing the amount of hardship pay provided to the brave men and women serving in West Africa.

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