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As USS Theodore Roosevelt Resumes Operations in the Pacific, Rep. Courtney Calls on Secretary Esper to Ensure Hazard Pay for U.S. Servicemembers

June 5, 2020
Press Release

NORWICH, CT – Today, Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-02), Chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces, released a letter he led along with a bipartisan coalition of Representatives urging Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper to provide hazardous duty pay to U.S. Navy and other servicemembers who have continued to serve throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. To date, there are over 6,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among uniformed servicemembers, and over 150 hospitalizations due to the virus.

The bipartisan call comes as the USS Theodore Roosevelt officially resumes operations in the Pacific for the first time since March 27, following an extended harboring in Guam to address an outbreak of COVID-19 among its crew. On April 2nd, Chairman Courtney led a bipartisan coalition in writing to former Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas B. Modly and Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Michael M. Gilday to request more information on the Navy’s plans to protect sailors and Marines against COVID-19. In their letter this week to Secretary Esper, Courtney and the other Members encourage the Secretary to secure hazard pay for sailors serving aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt, specifically.

In their letter, the Members wrote:

“As our nation enters the sixth month of a global health pandemic that has burdened every segment of American society, the men and women of the armed services have not been spared by its life-threatening, lethal reach. Examples abound of sailors, soldiers, reservists, and many others in uniform who have been infected in the course of duty that has inevitably put them and their families in high-risk environments for contraction of this disease.

“Due to the hazards associated with the duties that we expect our servicemembers to carry out, we strongly encourage you to use the authorities given to you under 36 U.S. Code § 351 and provide hazardous duty pay for our servicemembers at risk of being exposed to COVID-19. We ask you to make this designation for over 45,000 service members responding to the call to service to assist their state in response to the declaration of a national emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We also encourage you to designate any duty related to the COVID-19 pandemic for those serving under Title 10 such as the sailors serving aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt who have been put at risk without question. All service members responding to this call are risking direct exposure to this highly contagious and potentially deadly disease, clearly performing hazardous duty with the inherent danger of the risk of personal injury as described in the statute.

“We look forward to working with you to continue to provide the most appropriate benefits to those who shoulder the common good day in and day out.”Chairman Courtney’s letter was signed by Congresswoman Jackie Speier (CA-14), Chairwoman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel, and by Congressman James R. Langevin (RI-02), Chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Intelligence and Emerging Threats and Capabilities. It was also signed by Reps. Gilbert Cisneros, Jr. (CA-39), Joe Cunningham (SC-01), Veronica Escobar (TX-16), Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02), and Austin Scott (GA-08).

To read Chairman Courtney’s full letter, click here.