Category ►►► Viva Vets!
April 27, 2006
A Beesting On A Crying Face
I normally do not want to write anything bad about our military. But when it comes to mistreatment of our veterans, I have to speak up.
Anyone who has worked for the feds has a horror story or two about the cement-heads who cut the checks (or often fail to cut the checks, leaving employees and their families twisting slowly in the wind). But this is the worst yet: ABC news reports that the Army has been dunning wounded soldiers to pony up money they were overpaid -- because the green-eyeshade lackwits at the DoD personnel office couldn't change the soldiers' status quickly enough and continued to pay them as if they were in a combat zone... when in fact, they were in hospital.
The report highlights some horror stories:
Army specialist Tyson Johnson of Mobile, Ala., had just been promoted in a field ceremony in Iraq when a mortar round exploded outside his tent, almost killing him. "It took my kidney, my left kidney, shrapnel came in through my head, back of my head," he recounted....
His injuries forced him out of the military, and the Army demanded he repay an enlistment bonus of $2,700 because he'd only served two-thirds of his three-year tour. [! -- the Mgt.]
When he couldn't pay, Johnson's account was turned over to bill collectors. He ended up living out of his car when the Army reported him to credit agencies as having bad debts [!!], making it impossible for him to
rent an apartment.
"Oh, man, I felt betrayed," Johnson said. "I felt like, oh, my heart dropped."
And there are many more like Johnson. Staff Sgt. Ryan Kelly lost his leg in a roadside bomb attack in Iraq.
He didn't realize it, but the Army continued to mistakenly pay him combat bonus pay, about $2,000, while he was in the hospital rehabilitating, and then demanded that he pay it back. He, too, was threatened by the Army with debt collectors and a negative credit report.
Since this whole thing is the military's fault, they should completely forgive all such debts and do whatever it takes to restore the soldiers' credit score. The total military debt incurred among wounded servicemen is a paltry $1.5 million. It is nothing compared to the entire cost of the war.
I don't care if the soldiers weren't technically supposed to receive that money. How would they know that? It's not a soldier's responsibility to figure out how much his monthly salary is, particualrly when he's lying in a gurney missing a kidney and pieces of his skull. He has a few other things to worry about.
In Japan, this sort of garbage is called "a beesting on a crying face," 泣きっ面に蜂: when you're already crying, a bee flies over and stings you. It means a bad thing happens when you are already suffering from another bad situation. (In America, I think you say "adding insult to injury" -- which is literally true in this case.)
How could we let this happen? These are our bravest young men, and they put their lives on the line to protect our country. For our military to treat them like this is unconscionable.
It turns out these problems are due to data-entry errors and the sluggish work habits of the personnel employees (probably civilians). Since the wounded soldiers are evacuated so quickly, the accounting office doesn't keep up with the status change. The five-sided castle claims that the problems are being addressed; of the two soldiers in the story, the Pentagon say that "much of their debt" was forgiven.
Much? How much? And why not all of it?
It's not clear from ABC's reporting how many of these cases exist; they claim "thousands." However many there are, the DOD must make it a top priority to correct these despicable and degrading financial hits on men and women whose only crime was not to rise up out of their hospital beds to research whether the Army was overpaying them.
Congress will hear the case tomorrow; but Secretary Rumsfeld should beat them to the punch by immediately ordering the problem to be fixed per above.
We are asking these young people to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to make sure that their transition from the combat zone to hospital to everyday life is as painless as possible. At the very least, when soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines are wounded and need to be sent home, we should at least appropriate the doctors' motto, primum non nocere: first, do no harm.
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