Benefits lost after husband deployed overseas

November 2, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
ABC7 has an update on a California National Guardsman from Salinas who has been deployed to Afghanistan for a year. His family has been advised that his tour of duty would cost them his paycheck and their medical benefits.

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The Hanson family spent their last weekend together visiting San Francisco before Sgt. John Hanson shipped out to Afghanistan for a year.

First Sgt. Hanson is with the California National Guard's Elite Agribusiness Development Team, which received training through Cal Poly Pomona to help Afghan farmers learn about modern agricultural practices.

The Hanson family is from Salinas and Sgt. Hanson has worked for the city of Carmel as a building official for more than 20 years.

His orders to report for duty came in July. He shipped out about a month later. His wife received a letter on September 16 from the assistant city administrator of Carmel, saying her husband's benefits would be cut off as of December 31, 2009.

"It was a complete surprise to both of us," said wife Annette Hanson.

The Hansons were told not to worry this time around and that the family would be taken care of, like it was when he was deployed to Iraq in 2004.

The Carmel City Council unanimously passed a resolution to continue his benefits and the difference between his military salary and his city salary.

"John and I weren't sure if they were going to pass a resolution, like they did the last time," she said.

Annette called city officials and never had her calls returned. No one would admit to the conversation about the benefits continuing and she's still waiting for a meeting with the city administrator about the benefits being cut.

"That's just horrible, unbelievable, that anybody would even think of doing something like that," said Vietnam veteran Monte Miller.

Miller was so outraged, he started a petition drive to get the City Council to put the matter on the agenda.

"The American people are really backing our troops and it's embarrassing to have this happen to our city," said Miller.

I've had several conversations with the mayor of Carmel, Sue McCloud, who at first told me she didn't know anything about the controversy, even though she was sent a copy of a letter in early October from First. Sgt. Hanson's commanding officer, Colonel Eric Grimm, asking all agreements between the city and Hanson be continued.

Today, she told ABC7 she couldn't speak then because lawyers were involved. She said the matter is resolved and she had some encouraging news for the Hanson family.

"We amended the agenda on Saturday and moved it forward from December to Tuesday night's agenda," said McCloud.

McCloud admits the city could have handled the Hanson situation better. She said the benefits letter could have added one important bit of information.

"We want to clear up this misunderstanding and move forward in a positive way. Our track record is excellent as far as patriotism, support to John, support to the military and our veterans," said McCloud.

And yet, the Hanson family is still waiting to hear from City Hall about the letter and the resolution.

"Until you told me, I had no idea," said Annette. "John is a man of word and a man of honor. He's so loyal to the city and the fellow employees that this kind of thing is almost a slap in the face. Follow your word, do what you're say you're going to do, make it right."

We'll bring you an update on the Carmel City Council's vote on military benefits once the decision is in.

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