Rep. Ellison Leads Letter on Hardship Compensation for Military Personnel Fighting Ebola
MINNEAPOLIS—Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) sent a letter today to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel calling for an increase in pay for military personnel deployed in West Africa to fight Ebola. The letter comes as the Minnesota National Guard’s 34th Infantry Division announced 700 soldiers will be deployed to Liberia in the spring to assist in the fight against the epidemic. The letter was also signed by Reps. Colin Peterson (D-MN), Raul M. Grijalva (D-AZ), Jim McGovern (D-MA), Beto O’ Rourke (D-TX), Gween Moore (D-WI), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Matt Cartwright (D-PA), Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ), Greg Meeks (D-NY) and David Loebsack (D-IA).
The full text of the letter is below and a signed copy can be found here.The Honorable Chuck Hagel Secretary of Defense 1400 Defense Pentagon Washington, DC 20301
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.