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Army funding issues limiting moves

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Posted: Wednesday, October 9, 2013 4:30 am

FORT HOOD — Many transition services are operational again at Fort Hood, but not all of the funding has been fully restored, leaving some soldiers in the lurch.

Soldiers awaiting a move to another post are not having their orders processed if they were published after Oct. 1.

“Permanent change of stations orders are not yet 100 percent until appropriations are assigned,” said Marlean Druce, Fort Hood’s installation adjutant general. Her offices are still open for in-processing and out-processing soldiers whose orders date prior to October.

Another concern for families of active-duty soldiers is the hold on the death benefits families typically receive within three days of a service member’s death. The $100,000 granted to families to assist with immediate needs is not currently being paid out.

“They will be paid but we do not know when,” Druce said. There has not been a service member death at Fort Hood since the government shutdown began last week, though the Defense Department announced the deaths of four soldiers from other posts in Afghanistan on Monday. Other casualty operations remain in place, including military funerals and survivor outreach services, Druce said.

“If we hadn’t returned on Monday, I would’ve been concerned,” Druce said, regarding the furlough. Soldiers have been patient with the delays, but she can see their frustration, she said.

Waiting game

For Spc. John McKinnon, 4th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, the waiting game makes the shutdown more painful. Tuesday was his last day in the Army but he isn’t able to receive appropriations to assist in moving his family back to their home state of Massachusetts. Only basic pay and allowances are being paid right now, Druce said.

“I’m stuck in Texas,” McKinnon said. He, his wife and their two young children were planning to begin their do-it-yourself move this weekend.

If the shutdown lasts much longer, McKinnon will have to sign a new lease and begin looking for a job in Texas, delaying job interviews he has lined up in his home state and his wife’s plans for beginning veterinary school. “It has definitely been stressful,” McKinnon said.

In addition, the military is curtailing training for later deploying units, according to a statement from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel following a meeting with service chiefs. Hagel said he will continue to work closely with service leaders to address these challenges and expressed concern for the morale and welfare of service members, their families and Defense Department civilian employees.

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