Los Angeles Times

Benefits boost troops' families

CITY HALL — When longtime Glendale firefighter Robert Garibay spent a year in Iraq serving as a medic in the U.S. Army National Guard, he left behind his wife and two teenage children.

But while she was left on her own, Garibay's wife didn't have to cope with diminished finances thanks to supplementary salary payments from the city of Glendale.

"She had to be the mom and the dad and the money definitely helped out with financial woes," Garibay said. "It made it very easy for me to be over there."

Garibay is one of about 20 full-time city employees since 2001 who have left their jobs and families behind to serve in active military duty.

The employees have received financial support — including supplementary salary payments to bridge the difference between military and base city pay, as well as continued health benefits — to help prevent financial hardship while they are on tour.

Similar to benefits offered during the Gulf War in the 1990s, the City Council approved the current program in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and subsequent military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan .

The City Council on Tuesday is expected to extend the benefits for an additional year through Sept. 11, 2011.

"In this tough economic time, this is the least we can do," said Councilman Frank Quintero. "It helps the service members who are being continually deployed. They have long periods of deployment, so we need to help them out."

Any full-time employee who is called into active military duty to serve in Afghanistan or Iraq, or to patrol the U.S. border, can qualify for the supplemental salary payments.

Currently, only one employee is absent from work while engaged in military service, although about 20 others could be called for service.

"In the years immediately following 9/11 and the height of the Iraq war, it seemed that there were a lot more of our employees being deployed," said Human Resources Director Matt Doyle.

That has slowed to about one or two per year, he said.

Still, with a major increase in the use of National Guard and reserve forces, the supplemental salary benefits are important to help those who do serve to maintain financial stability, Quintero said

Garibay said the benefits help prevent employees from being penalized for military service.

"I lost absolutely nothing," he said. "It was like I was here the whole time."

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