Drone crews may be entitled to tax-free combat pay
June 23, 2022

Representatives from both sides of the house sponsored a bill this week that could entitle drone crews working stateside to the same tax-free combat pay as deployed troops.

The legislation was sponsored by Reps. Marsha Blackburn, Steven Horsford, and Jacky Rosen. through their respective Armed Services committees, want to fix that.

Blackburn issued a statement in which she said:

“Warfare is increasingly conducted stateside, yet drone crews engaged in active combat situations are not recognized as having served in combat by the military and therefore do not receive benefits or care commensurate with their service. These servicemembers experience similar stressors to their colleagues who are physically overseas and see similar horrific events play out, and deserve to be treated as such.”

According to the bill, if a drone crew flies a mission within a Pentagon approved combat zone, they would be eligible for untaxed combat pay.

Currently, these drone operators already receive an flight stipend separate from their base pay or other allowances. According to the Internal revenue Service, that flight stipend and additional combat pay would both be untaxable.

Dave Philipps, a Times reporter, previously wrote:

“Drone crews have launched more missiles and killed more people than nearly anyone else in the military in the past decade, but the military did not count them as combat troops. Because they were not deployed, they seldom got the same recovery periods or mental-health screenings as other fighters. Instead they were treated as office workers, expected to show up for endless shifts in a forever war.”

According to the Air Force Times, in order to qualify for this tax-free stipend, drone crews would have to fly Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) missions that provide “intelligence, targeting or command and control that has been certified by the Secretary of Defense to be in direct support” of said mission.

A release from Rosen’s office said, “I’m pleased to be building on the bipartisan provision I helped secure in [the 2023 defense policy bill] to support these crews’ mental health and improve their quality of life, and will always fight to make sure that our service members in Nevada and across our country receive the benefits they deserve.”

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