Thousands Of Troops Qualify for R&R Air Travel Rebates
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 29, 2004 The Army announced today that more than 30,000 troops are eligible for retroactive reimbursement of out-of-pocket air travel costs paid in conjunction with rest and recuperation leave taken last year.
The new policy affects about 32,000 service members who took R&R leave between Sept. 25, 2003, and Dec. 18, 2003, from duty in the Afghan or Iraqi theaters of operation, Hank Minitrez, a spokesman for the Army's Well-Being Division, told reporters at a Pentagon roundtable.
The U.S. Congress, he noted, had directed the change.
Reimbursements, Minitrez explained, cover service members' airline ticket costs for to-and-from travel between R&R leave destinations and stateside aerial points of debarkation.
"We at least owe them that much for what they've sacrificed," he pointed out.
Minitrez said the Defense Department approved payment of onward travel airline costs for R&R leave participants Dec. 19, 2003. Authorization to implement the policy, he noted, was granted June 21.
Points of debarkation, he said, may include airports in Baltimore, Dallas-Fort Worth and Atlanta
Soldiers make up the majority on the eligible list, Minitrez pointed out, which also includes five Air Force members.
The policy, Minitrez noted, applies only to service members deployed on one- year tours of duty for Operations Enduring Freedom or Iraqi Freedom. The Marines, he noted, do seven-month tours, and therefore aren't eligible. Government civilians, he added, also aren't eligible.
It's estimated the reimbursement program will cost between $13 and $19 million, noted Lt. Col. Bobbie Sanders, deputy chief of the rest and recuperation task force under the Army's Well-Being Division.
Sanders said the Army is using leave-and-earnings statements and unit e-mail messages to tell eligible service members about the reimbursement program.
Eligible service members "can go to their local finance office to receive their reimbursement," she pointed out.
Sanders said eligible people who'd left the service would receive an announcement about the program via mail to their last-known address.
Service members who've departed the military have six years to file for the reimbursement, noted Sheila Melton, an Indianapolis branch Defense Finance and Accounting Service accountant.
For more information, see the U.S. Central Command R&R Leave Program Web site.