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Comments by YACCS
Saturday, September 23, 2006

Are they out of their fuckiing minds?

Sgt. Michael Donohue estimates that he owes
the city $100,000.

New York City’s Reservists Are Asked to Return Iraq Pay

Published: September 23, 2006

When they were called up for military service in the wake of 9/11, hundreds of uniformed city workers in the Reserves faced the suspension of their city health and pension benefits. The city offered them an option: it would keep paying their salaries and continue their benefits, but when they returned they would have to repay the city their city salary or their military pay, whichever was less.

On its face, the offer made sense. And many reservists had only a few days to get their affairs together before shipping out — hardly enough time to consult accountants. Nearly all took the deal. As the war dragged on, more than 1,600 city employees, mostly police officers, signed up for the benefits program.

Now the bills from the city are coming due, for far more than many veterans imagined they would have to pay — as much as $200,000 — and often for more money than they ever received.

The city is demanding that the veterans repay their gross salaries, even though they never saw about a third of the money, which went for taxes and other deductions. The commissioner of administrative services, Martha K. Hirst, said veterans should be able to get back the difference between gross and take-home pay by amending their tax returns. But several tax accountants said the city had created an accounting quagmire.

David Gitel, a tax accountant in Manhattan, said that if the employees paid the money back over several years — which many will have to do — rather than in a lump sum, they could lose thousands of dollars in income-tax and social security payments.

“It’s an interesting experience,” Mr. Gitel said.

For now, the Police Department, which waited as much as four years to begin asking for the money back in the spring, is stepping up its collection efforts. On Thursday, hundreds of officers received letters in their pay envelopes threatening legal action if they did not make repayment arrangements within 15 days.

A city official, who was unwilling to be identified lest he incur his colleagues’ anger, gave an explanation for the delay. “People have been talking about it here for some time, about getting around to doing it,” he said. “It’s probably the hero thing. Why make a top priority of telling somebody to give back money when they just went off to war?”

Under the terms of the deal, nontaxable military housing and food allowances also count as military pay. Those allowances can nearly double military pay, in some cases making it more than city pay. Many veterans who did not read the fine print said they thought they would have to repay only their modest military take-home base salary.

On Monday, the City Council will consider a resolution to ask Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg to stop counting military allowances as income.

Assistant Police Chief Michael Collins said that after the letters went out on Thursday, many officers contacted the department to begin repayment. The department hopes to recover more than $15 million, he said.

The odds are the city may not get a dime. This is a cheap way for Albany to make nice with the cops. Throw this on top of 9/11 illness and this is a giant fuck you to the people who work for the city. I can see Albany wiping much of the slate clean. This is going to get ugly. Allowances and combat pay? Come on.

posted by Steve @ 1:56:00 AM

1:56:00 AM

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