Nassau County Presiding Officer Judy Jacobs (D-Woodbury) and majority legislators today announced their intent to introduce legislation which would change how the county calculates leave pay for county employees who called to active military duty in the War on Terrorism.
Currently, the reservist continues to collect his or her full county salary while mobilized; at the same time, he or she is earning a military salary, which includes food and housing allowances.The reservist is then obligated to reimburse the county whatever he or she has earned in military pay.
“We have to adjust this immediately so that when soldiers come back they are not paying money for having gone to war for our country,” said Presiding Officer Jacobs.
According to the Legislative Budget Review Office, 74 employees would be impacted by this legislation, with 58% coming from the Police Department.
"Without a strong guard and reserve we would be faced with a return to the draft,” said Edward Aulman, Nassau County’s Veterans Service Agency Director. “Theconstant use and reuse of the Guard and reserve is putting tremendous strainon our citizen soldiers who have to leave home, family, and jobsfor multipletours in a war zone.County Executive Suozzi agrees with the legislature that this measure makes it a bit easier for our military families to serve the county and the nation.”
Many of the brave Americans serving in Iraq and other locations are not full-time military personnel, but rather members of the organized militia, reserve forces or reserve components of the armed forces of the United States who have other civilian jobs. When reservists were called up for military service in the wake of 9/11, they faced the suspension of their county health and pension benefits. The legislature then approved the military leave law that provides county employees who are called to military duty to be eligible for up to three years leave at reduced pay during their active status. 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 county pay. Many veterans said they thought they would have to repay only their modest military take-home base salary.
"I want to thank the legislators from the bottom of my heart for their great work on this legislation,” said Vincent Grasso, Intelligence Specialist First Class assigned to Naval Special Warfare Group One. Grasso is currently in the Western Al Anbar Province of Iraq and is employed by the county at the Board of Elections as Chief Clerk.
“Mobilized reservists don't need additional stress when called to serve- both stateside and in hostile areas. Being away from homein a hostile environment is stressful enough and this legislation eases that stress and makes my and other reservists' return a lot easier,” he added.
“Since the war effort relies increasingly on reservists, it seems unfair that those who serve would be penalized,” said Jacobs.