Returning Iraq Vets Spending Big
The Christian Science Monitor has a page 1 feature today on soldiers coming back from Iraq with money to burn.
While deployed to war zones, soldiers can build up a small fortune. For each month in Iraq and Afghanistan, they receive $225 of hazard pay and $100 of hardship-duty pay. Those in the most dangerous jobs can get an additional $150 a month in hazardous-duty incentive pay, while soldiers with families can apply for a $250-a-month Family Separation Allowance. Reenlistment bonuses range from $10,000 to $40,000. All this money, as well as their wartime salary, is tax-free.
That’s a welcome change. When I was in Desert Storm, the enlisted troops got paid tax free but officers only got the first $150 a month, a figure that hadn’t changed since Vietnam, exempted. Indeed, most of us wound up having to write a big check come tax time since there was no withholding.
Free-spending soldiers have always been a part of the Army, both after wars and in peacetime. “There has been a longstanding problem of soldiers buying expensive stereos, motorcycles, and muscle cars (and frequently going into debt),” writes David Segal, a military sociologist at the University of Maryland in College Park, in an e-mail.
Soldiers are no different in that regard than other young men getting their first real paychecks. And, certainly, these men have earned the right to splurge.