NYC to Veterans: Give Us Your Paychecks

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Many NYC police officers and firefighters served with the U.S. military in Iraq. The city is asking these soldiers to repay their city salaries.
by Ti-Hua Chang

New York Veterans of the Iraq war went to City Hall on Monday afternoon for a different fight.

That’s because 1,600 New York City employees, mostly police officers and firefighters who served in Iraq or Afghanistan, have been told they must reimburse the city for back pay, because they received both military and city paychecks while overseas.

Police Officer Louis Maniscalco served in Iraq in the Army National Guard three years ago. He said he just got a notice to pay the city back $70,000, not for take-home pay, but his gross two years pay as a police officer. He has to pay taxes twice and wait to be reimbursed.

Maniscalco said he could not believe the City could be so callous.

“It was basically, ‘welcome back … now pay up,'” he said.

In Monday’s hearing, a councilman said even the families of two city worker-soldiers who died in Iraq will have to reimburse the city their dead loved ones’ back pay…

     

Councilman Tony Avella told city representatives before an audience packed with veterans the request is unacceptable.

“That is disgraceful, the Democrat from Queens said.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg tried to explain the city’s position.

“What we want to do is get them the higher of the two salaries and keep benefits,” he said.

The city said former Mayor Rudy Giuliani devised this plan to save city worker-soldiers health insurance, pension and sick pay. The city commissioner handling the money recovery said no one expected the Iraq War to last so long.

Said Martha Hirst, Commissioner of the Department of Citywide Administration Services: “We will do what we are able and the affordability will be something we will do with the council.”

She would not even give a ballpark figure on the cost.

Some City Council members suggested that all city employees fighting in Iraq be able to have two salaries, military and city, as is done in Los Angeles, a position popular with the veterans.


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