Starting February 1, 2012, American soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines will be subject to a proration system for their Imminent Danger Pay (IDP). IDP is a tax free bonus paid to members of the armed forces that are deployed to specific locations, i.e. combat zones. The provision for this proration was included in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 (NDAA), which was signed into law on December 31, 2011. Due to the red tape and inertia, the military pay system was not able to adjust to the proration system until February 1. As a result, between the signing of the NDAA and February 1, military members deployed to combat zones were effectively overpaid under the old system. Prior to the NDAA, one day of duty in a combat zone entitled the servicemen to the entire month's worth of IDP, $225. Implementing the change according to the NDAA results in prorating the bonus to $7.50 per day, up to a maximum of $225. If a deployed military member, serving in a combat zone is exposed to hostile fire or a hostile mine explosion event, the member then receives Hostile Fire Pay (HFP), which is also a tax-free bonus of $225. IDP and HFP are mutually exclusive; earning the full $225 under either renders the service member ineligible to receive the other.
Let's delve into this issue and find out what's really going on here. The idea behind this change is to eliminate the abuse that results when a military member arrives in theater on the last day of a month and then later departs the combat zone on the first day of a month. Under the old, non-prorating system, he is now entitled to $550 for essentially two days of being in the combat zone. With the changes, he now only receives $15. But, in reality, who's to blame here? Lower ranking warfighters don't just hop on any ol' flight to Afghanistan whenever they want. They're shipped off in large batches and go when they're ordered. So, it's not the private's fault that he's been paid an extra few hundred dollars because the military brass couldn't organize a better system of shipping and receiving their troops. The real culprits are the military bigwigs that make tours through the many bases in the combat zone to ostensibly inspect for morale and welfare. These guys make sure they arrive on the last day of the month, shake some hands, have lunch with some people, make a big display so it looks like they care, and then they're packed up and gone on the earliest flight the next day, wads of cash figuratively stuffed in their pockets. This change to the IDP policy will cut down on high ranking officials abusing the system, sure, but these instances are fairly few and far between. The only thing the change really does is hurt young enlisted troops who get paid pennies to do all the dirty work. Don't you think they deserve a little bonus for putting their asses on the line for freedom?