WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) yesterday called on the U.S. Department of Defense to ensure that Minnesota National Guard soldiers serving overseas receive the full benefits they were promised when they return home.

The defense department recently reduced the amount of post-deployment leave eligible soldiers receive, which could impact members of the Minnesota National Guard’s 1/34th Brigade Combat Team (BCT) that have been serving in Kuwait since July, 2011 to assist the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.

In a letter to U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, Klobuchar urged the defense department to give the Red Bulls of Minnesota’s 1/34th BCT the full amount of leave they were promised when they mobilized.

“Time and again, the Minnesota Red Bulls have gone above and beyond the call of duty to serve our nation,” Klobuchar said in the letter. “I believe it is imperative that these men and women receive the full number of leave benefits they were promised and earned.”

In October, the Department of Defense made changes to the Post Deployment/Mobilization Respite Absence (PDMRA) program, reducing the amount of leave benefits provided to eligible soldiers from four days per month served to one or two, depending on location of service, and also potentially reducing the number of soldiers eligible for benefits. These changes could have the impact of decreasing by up to 27 days the amount of leave accrued by approximately 770 members (95 percent) of the 1/34th BCT who are eligible for PDMRA benefits.

Klobuchar previously worked to help members of the Red Bulls receive over $10 million in PDMRA payments that were delayed for more than three years after the soldiers served in Iraq from 2005-2007, which was the longest tour at that time of any American military unit deployed to Iraq.

“When our men and women in uniform signed up to serve there wasn’t a line, and there shouldn’t be a line to get the benefits they earned when they come home,” Klobuchar said. “I will continue to work to ensure that the defense department keeps its promise to Minnesota’s Red Bulls and gives them the full benefits they deserve.”