Pentagon demanding return of cash bonuses given to soldiers a decade ago


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Evil. The government is routinely evil: The Pentagon is demanding that soldiers who ten years ago volunteered to re-enlist to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan in exchange for cash bonuses return those bonuses because new audits have revealed that the government had screwed up.

The Army asked wounded Iraq veteran and former Army captain Christopher Van Meter, 42, to repay a $25,000 reenlistment bonus it said he was ineligible to receive. He was also asked to repay $21,000 in student loan repayments. Van Meter told the paper that rather than fight the Army he paid back the money after refinancing his home. “These bonuses were used to keep people in,” Van Meter said. “People like me just got screwed.”

The Times reported that 48-year-old Army sergeant Robert Richmond, who suffered permanent injuries in an Iraq roadside bomb attack, is refusing to repay his $15,000 cash bonus. The Army contends he was ineligible to receive the bonus in 2006 because he had already served 20 years in the Army. “I signed a contract that I literally risked my life to fulfill,” Richmond told the paper. “We want somebody in the government, anybody, to say this is wrong and we’ll stop going after his money.”

Investigations determined that fraud and mismanagement due to poor oversight contributed to the California Guard bonus overpayments, according to the Times. [emphasis mine]

In other words, the government was either incompetent or downright corrupt a decade ago, and now wants soldiers who risked their lives but did their job well to suffer for that incompetence and corruption.

As I say, the government is routinely evil, and incompetent. It can’t do anything right, and will never take responsibility for its own disasters. Instead, it tries to pass its failures on to us all.

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11 comments

  • Cotour

    I only read the BHTB copy which says that these soldiers were “asked” to repay the money, can I interpret that as they have an option to refuse to repay the money? And what happens if they do refuse?

  • Cotour: Read the article. Or read this one. The soldiers are being ordered to repay the money. Why do you think one of the officer’s quoted had to refinance his mortgages?

  • pzatchok

    Well this is California and it does concern the Military. Obviously no Californian politicians want to do anything about it.

    Some out of state incumbent republican will pick it up and stop it. If one with balls can still be found.

  • wayne

    Can’t speak to how the DoD handles (alleged) “overpayments” & “reenlistment bonuses,” but in the human-services realm if you are on social-security disability (SSDI) and have zero assets, & the Fed’s do any sort of claw-back on you, they can only deduct a certain token percentage from your SSDI per month. (and/but– that can last ‘forever.’)
    No clue if the military is covered under those Laws.
    I’m personally aware of an idvidual (non military & totally legit disabled) who was “accidentally overpaid” $3K on his SSDI 10 years ago. He’s been on the “$15/month plan” to repay it, for the past decade & will most likely die before it’s settled.

    (Meanwhile, the Feds spend $4 billion/year on free cell-phones for the “poor.”)

  • Garry

    This brings back memories of my tour as a battalion personnel officer.

    When I was assigned the job, what struck me immediately is that the DOD Pay Manual was about 3 inches thick, and every month we were issued a change that varied in thickness between half an inch and a full inch. My predecessor hadn’t inserted the changes for more than a year, which was one of many factors that had put us all out of whack.

    I found it interesting that, in the name of fairness, Congress saw it fit to publish extensive changes every month. I suspect it was some bureaucrats mostly making changes so that they could justify their jobs.

    I remember one very complicated case; a Marine who hadn’t been paid his housing allowance properly in 19 months. Research of the former versions of the DoD Pay Manual showed that during that time, his rate had changed 4 times, mostly due to arbitrary updates of the DoD Pay Manual! One example was of an arbitrary change was that, since he lived 45 miles away, he qualified for a certain type of housing allowance during a time period when the limit was 50 miles, but then they arbitrarily changed the limit to 40 miles, so he no longer qualified for that exact type of housing allowance (I may be off on the numbers, but that’s the gist of it).

    I estimated that it took more than 40 man-hours (many of them by high-ranking people with a lot of other responsibilities) to recalculate what that Marine should have been paid over the 19 months, and in the process we “saved” the government a few hundred dollars, which was of course taken away from him instantly. The higher headquarters people who worked with me on this treated him like he had committed fraud.

    It’s going on 30 years since I had that job, but what always struck me was (1) how complicated the system was (2) how often the details of the complicated system changed (3) how merciless they were in recovering overpayments, regardless of who was at fault.

    There were special procedures to blunt the effects of collecting overpayments, or to rectify an underpayment more quickly. When it was our fault (usually my predecessor’s), I always made a point to apologize to the Marine, and submitted a form so that he could be paid immediately rather than at the end of the next pay cycle (12 to 27 days away, depending on when we found the error).

    The problem was that the form required the Battalion Commander’s signature. He refused to sign one of the first ones I wrote, and I replied that I would not leave his office until he signed it. After he brow-beat me for 45 minutes, I shamed him into signing it (and about a dozen others in the next month or so as I spotted more problems). His reasoning was that we led the Division in the number of these forms, and he didn’t want to be “on the skyline” and get a bad fitness report. Meanwhile, the Marine whose pay was screwed up didn’t have enough money to feed his wife and kids, yet he was expected to put his life on the line if it came to that.

    I can go on for hours with horror stories on pay and benefits overpaid to Marines through bureaucratic mistakes, then taken away without notice. I always investigated any severe underpayments (I received a pay forecast 12 days before payday), and did my best to at least warn the Marine of what was coming, and did what I could to blunt the effects.

    At the same time, some Marines just never bothered to register events that affected pay (such as getting married), and charged into my office demanding back pay today for the past 8 months. In those cases I let them know that it was their fault for not telling us, and I just let the system take the usual 12 to 27 days.

    One friend in a different unit, while deployed in combat, didn’t get paid at all for 6 months, because they had recorded his social security number incorrectly in the system, and nobody caught it.

    This bonus problem is even worse, and it makes my blood boil. It seems to me that somebody along the way could have used common sense; I assume that this is probably what happened for some time, but at some point some inspector found the irregularities and wanted to make a name for him/herself.

    Congress is the one in charge of these things, and they should absolutely forgive the “debts.” We should all raise this issue to as high a profile as possible and put pressure on our Congressmen, who at this point are the only ones who can get this rectified.

  • wayne

    Garry–
    Very enlightening.

  • Insomnius

    I wouldn’t be surprised if someone at the Pentagon tries to claim that this is where the missing 2.3trillion went.

  • Brendan

    Perhaps the Bushes should do a fund raiser for these men and women, considering how “supportive” they are of the troops.

  • Cotour

    I suspect that Trump will fix this if and when he becomes president.

    The latest most reliable poll.

    http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/presidential-chia-poll-update-chia-trump-78-vs-chia-clinton-22-300333569.html

    :)

  • PeterF

    The rule of thumb when dealing with accounting and finance was that if you were due a bonus you would see it in a month or so but if you were overpaid they would deduct the entire amount from your pay immediately until it was paid back.
    Imagine working for six months with ZERO pay. I knew people who went right out and spent the money>
    When I was on a remote assignment I got a HUGE check that I didn’t expect. I knew I didn’t just win the lottery so I didn’t go out and buy a car or host a huge party or anything. (I was an E-4 with a wife and three kids back home.) My next LES (Leave and Earnings Statement) was for $0. I keep meaning to frame it so I can hang it in my man cave. (If I ever get one of those)

  • Garry

    I was listening to local talk radio and a guest said something that sent a chill up my spine: what if the goal wasn’t to recover the money, but to discourage enlistments/re-enlistments?

    I don’t know why Congress isn’t all over this; I don’t think they’re in session at the moment, but the “leadership” should be very loudly announcing their intent to pass legislation to forgive the “debts.”

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