Patriotic Pay Cut

Thousands of East Texans in the reserves are serving our nation in the Middle East tonight. In many cases, they've left behind their jobs, their benefit packages and their families. While they serve in the same capacity as full-time soldiers, many reservists take a dramatic cut in pay to do so.

Marie Dowdy of Longview said goodbye to her husband, William, back in early January. William, a Sheriff's Deputy and Navy reserve, lost about 25 percent of his income when duty called. Since his departure, Marie has been on the phone with creditors, making sure they comply with the federally mandated six percent interest rate approved for reserves.

"I was pretty trusting about it in the beginning," Marie says of her husband's last deployment. "And then I discovered the mortgage company had not complied."

Because Marie knew the Sailor's and Soldiers Civil Relief Act, she knew mortgage companies were required to cap reserves' rates. She negotiated until they lowered her husband's. But the mother of four worries about families who are unaware of the regulations.

"They don't know about the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act," she says. "They don't know how to even get this information. I've talked to wives who just don't feel any support from the employer at all."

Attorney James Volberding helps military families sort through these issues. Volberding, a captain in the U.S. Army reserves, says anyone needing direction should visit with military chaplains, Jag officers or the nearest military post.

Volberding says the only law mandating an employer's support is the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, or USSERRA.

"USSERRA provides that an employer has to make sure the soldier's job is protected while they're deployed," explains Volberding.

Even though the law says William Dowdy will get his job back when he returns, it does little for Marie's budget right now.

When Bill's here, he does more than his job, he has about three or four other jobs," she adds.

In the meantime, Marie has learned to keep a tight budget, and she applauds employers who've found places in their budgets to provide for reserves abroad.

   Kerri Panchuk, reporting.