Military Demands Refund from Wounded Vets

Military Demands Refund from Wounded Vets The military has apparently been demanding that soldiers discharged after being wounded in combat give back part of their enlistment signing bonuses. Pittsburgh’s KDKA reports on one case:

The U.S. Military is demanding that thousands of wounded service personnel give back signing bonuses because they are unable to serve out their commitments.

To get people to sign up, the military gives enlistment bonuses up to $30,000 in some cases. Now men and women who have lost arms, legs, eyesight, hearing and can no longer serve are being ordered to pay some of that money back.

One of them is Jordan Fox, a young soldier from the South Hills. He finds solace in the hundreds of boxes he loads onto a truck in Carnegie. In each box is a care package that will be sent to a man or woman serving in Iraq. It was in his name Operation Pittsburgh Pride was started.

Fox was seriously injured when a roadside bomb blew up his vehicle. He was knocked unconscious. His back was injured and lost all vision in his right eye. A few months later Fox was sent home. His injuries prohibited him from fulfilling three months of his commitment. A few days ago, he received a letter from the military demanding nearly $3,000 of his signing bonus back. “I tried to do my best and serve my country. I was unfortunately hurt in the process. Now they’re telling me they want their money back,” he explained.

It’s a slap for Fox’s mother, Susan Wardezak, who met with President Bush in Pittsburgh last May. He thanked her for starting Operation Pittsburgh Pride which has sent approximately 4,000 care packages. He then sent her a letter expressing his concern over her son’s injuries, so she cannot understand the U.S. Government’s apparent lack of concern over injuries to countless U.S. Soldiers and demands that they return their bonuses.

His U.S. Representative, David Altmire, is sponsoring a bill that would end this practice.

Details are sketchy, with only a handful of mostly derivative reports out there. It’s far from clear whether this is an administration directive or a bureaucratic SNAFU caused by people reading the regulations way too laterally.

Regardless, this practice is rather obviously outrageous. One expects the Altmire’s “Veterans Guaranteed Bonus Act” to pass easily, with enthusiastic support from across the spectrum from Steve Benen to AllahPundit.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. DC Loser says:

    I gotta wonder who in the Army bureaucracy is stupid enough to think that this is a good idea?

  2. markm says:

    “bureaucratic SNAFU”

    I’d bet that’s it. I’ve seen some pretty batsh*t crazy things that would fall under that category.

  3. Boyd says:

    I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the bonus money must be recouped by law, and DoD is only doing what Congress said it must.

    Either way, this is something Congress can easily fix.

  4. just me says:

    Either it is a SNAFU or an Army thing (or policy has changed).

    My husband is a disabled veteran. He served in the 90’s. Was discharged on a medical discharge in the mid 90’s. When he was discharged he not only kept all of his enlistment bonus, he was paid the balance of his enlistment bonus at discharge (I think he re-enlisted for 12,000 dollars and got half at the front of the paper signing with the balance due once the enlistment was completed).

    The one thing I wonder about though-is if this isn’t a VA problem. All medical discharge bonus and reenlistment balance bonus money is lumped into “medical payments” and the service member can’t collect a check from the VA until the balance is paid. I wonder if that isn’t what is actually going on and the media just isn’t covering it right. My husband collects checks on some VA rated disabilties, but the actual disability he was discharged for he won’t collect a check for for a very long time (I think we figured it out it would take almost 20 years after discharge before he would collect a check).

  5. Dadmanly says:

    I think these latter commenters may be on to something. Those of us with VA disabilities have to decide whether to take the disability payment or service payment whenever we do active (or drill status) duty. We aren’t allowed (by law passed by Congress) to double dip, although there are efforst made to change that.

    I am a Guardsman; eventually, as part of an annual process, I will be asked to return a portion of my VA partial disability payment when someone calculates how many days of basic pay I served against how many days I was paid disability. No complaints here; I do 2-4 days a month: out of 30 days worth, that’s a small fraction. But for active duty soldiers, it would be an either or.

    There could easily be some confusion, or a blurriness in the law. Is a bonus check part of military pay? If so, I could see confusion if someone earning VA disability pay is getting or has gotten “paid” is some other way from military service.

    If his congressman is onto this, he’ll be made whole, and laws will be passed (I have no doubt) to end the confusion.

    But this isn’t what war and military critics will make it out to be, for sure.

  6. fester says:

    James — I agree that this is a fix that should go through real quickly as it should have no opposition from any conceivable angle.

    One little nitpick, the Rep. in question is Jason Altmire, and according to the KDKA report the soldier is from the Pittsburgh South Hills. Depending exactly where in the South Hills he is from, his Congressman should be either Mike Doyle (D-PA-14) or Tim Murphy (R-PA-18). Given local naming conventions then he is 90% probable to be in Murphy’s district