Sunday, November 25, 2007

It's The Law

Cookie over to the Cook Shack ran a story about our GI's that has my bowels in an uproar.

There are certain things that governments do that elicit very fierce responses from the governed. I guess it is because in many respects we feel that:
1) It is being shoved down our throats;
2) It is just plain dumb;
3) It is wasteful; and
4) It is unfair, or worse, evil.

I can't decide whether or not the following government action irritates me so much because it is extremely unfair or that it is borderline evil.

Servicemen who received reenlistment bonuses are being forced to repay all or part of that bonus if they are unable to complete their tour of duty due to injuries received while on duty. From CBS News:

(CBS) Jordan Fox received a $10,000 signing bonus when he joined the Army. The Mt. Lebanon man served his country in Iraq, where as a sniper he survived machine gun battles and a roadside bomb that knocked him unconscious and linded him in his right eye. The injury forced the military to send him home. A few weeks later, Fox received a bill from the Department of Defense, saying he owes the military nearly $3,000 from his original enlistment bonus because he couldn't fulfill three months of his commitment.

"I tried to do my best and serve my country and unfortunately I was hurt in the process and now they're telling me that they want their money back," Fox told CBS station KDKA-TV.

This is apparently not an isolated bureaucratic foul-up. The military is allegedly demanding that thousands of wounded service personnel give back signing bonuses because they are unable to serve out their commitments.

This isn't the NFL where a highly paid athlete can suffer a career ending injury at any time and then retire to another good job in a broadcast booth. These men and women are placing themselves in Harm's Way so we don't have to.

There is another side to this. While researching this article, I came across this comment at

Rather than outsourcing, I would suspect the computers at the Defense Finance and Accounting Service are programmed to detect when a servicemember's discharge date falls before the expiration date of the bonus contract...and send out a computerized form letter.

Very little of what happens in the military pay area is touched by human hands...once you're programmed into the computer. YA, you must remember that the "ruling" political party only controls a small sliver of jobs at the top of each executive branch agency. It's the long-term civil service employees (aka bureaucrats) that move with the speed of molasses.

Perhaps there is a good bit of truth to this. Being a bit of a bureaucrat myself, I can testify that there is so much BS that we have to report on and take care of. Automating system responses is the only way we can get anything done. Of course if someone neglects to create a field in the database that specifies a duty related injury as the cause for noncompliance, there is no way for that computer generated response to be cancelled.

In any event this must be addressed. Please contact your local congressional representative and urge them to support H.R. 3793: The Veterans Guaranteed Bonus Act of 2007. This act reads as follows:

To amend title 37, United States Code, to require the Secretary of Defense to continue to pay to a member of the Armed Forces who is retired or separated from the Armed Forces due to a combat-related injury certain bonuses that the member was entitled to before the retirement or separation and would continue to be entitled to if the member was not retired or separated.

If you don't know who your representative is, please use this site to find out who he or she is and to contact them.

It appears that all the serviceman has to do is file for a waiver for the bonus repayment to be canceled. Again from

Bureaucrats and green eye shade accountants in DoD...who are dutifully following the regulations and directives written...and carefully crafted in concert with ensure DoD complied with the reams of Congressional language tied to the awarding of reenlistment avoid scandal headlines in the Washington Post...after some GAO report blasts the service for not being good stewards of taxpayer money.

Here's the real story: anytime an enlisted person accepts a bonus--in this particular case an up-front lump sum bonus for future time to be served--that service person signs a document acknowledging he/she must repay any portion of that bonus that hasn't been "repaid" through active service. Reasonable procedure to ensure all you American taxpayers get your money's worth out of our GI's.

The more reasonable procedure is the one that exists within each branch of the service whereby, with justification (and supporting documentation), the GI can submit a letter to the Secretary of his/her branch of service requesting foregiveness of that financial obligation.

This is such a routine occurance that the approval level for these kinds of waivers have been delegated down to the lowest level of political appointee within each branch (deputy assistant secretary). The process even covers situations such as your furniture shipment exceeded the allowance for your rank and you owe money to to government for excess moving costs. It can...and is...routinely foregiven.

All this wounded warrior has to do to avoid recoupment is ask.

And YA, the rules on bonuses and recoupment go much, much farther back than Bush II.

Hmmmmm. Mebbe this whole thing is just another outburst of BDS by the lamestream media. I am starting to wonder if that PA COngressman is sponsoring this legislation just to gain some political advantage. Soooooo, I did some more checking and found this mind numbing DoD document.

It is Section E1.5.3. that lays out the stipulations where repayment of bonus will be waived as long as the injury or illness is not a result of the service member's misconduct.

Actually there are seven conditions where the repayment of bonus is waived! This includes an involuntary Reduction in Force (RIF), Service directed re-deployment, separation for hardship, etc. You can read it all right here as follows:

Department of Defense INSTRUCTION NUMBER 1304.29 December 15, 2004

SUBJECT: Administration of Enlistment Bonuses, Accession Bonuses for New Officers in Critical Skills, Selective Reenlistment Bonuses, and Critical Skills Retention Bonuses for Active Members

General. A Service member shall be required to refund the unearned portion of the bonus, as specified in paragraph E1.5.5., when:

E1.5.1.1. An enlisted Service member, voluntarily or because of misconduct, does not complete the term of enlistment, extension of enlistment, or additional obligated service for which the bonus was paid.

E1.5.1.2. With respect to an Enlistment Bonus or SRB, an enlisted Service member is not technically qualified in the skill for which a bonus was paid (other than a enlisted Service member who is not qualified because of injury, illness, or other impairment not the result of the enlisted Service member’s misconduct).

E1.5.1.3. With respect to an Officer Accession Bonus, an individual fails to accept a commission as an officer or fails to commence or complete the total period of active duty service specified in the agreement.

E1.5.1.4. With respect to a CSRB, an officer who has entered into a written agreement fails to complete the total period of active duty specified in the agreement.

E1.5.2. Repayment Not Required or Repayment Waived (when authorized by law)

E1.5.2.1. For purposes of subparagraph E1.5.1.1. (Enlistment Bonus), the term “voluntary or because of misconduct” shall not include those conditions or circumstances set forth in subparagraph E1.5.3.

E1.5.2.2. For purposes of subparagraph E1.5.1.3. (CSRB), the Secretary of the Military Department concerned shall not require recoupment for those conditions or circumstances set forth in subparagraph E1.5.3.

E1.5.2.3. For purposes of subparagraph E1.5.1.4. (Officer Accession Bonus), the Secretary of the Military Department concerned shall waive recoupment under the conditions or circumstances set forth in subparagraph E1.5.3.

E1.5.2.4. A Service member paid an Enlistment Bonus or an SRB who is discharged prior to the completion of the term of service specified in the bonus agreement for the purpose of immediate reenlistment for which no reenlistment bonus is paid, is not required to refund the unearned portion of the Enlistment or Reenlistment Bonus provided the term of the reenlistment following the early discharge includes the remaining period of service in the prior enlistment.

E1.5.3. Conditions or Circumstances. Under the following conditions or circumstances, repayment of an unearned portion of a bonus shall not be required, or repayment shall be waived if waiver is statutorily authorized:

E1.5.3.1. Death of the Service member was not the result of the Service member’s misconduct;

E1.5.3.2. Injury or illness of the Service member was not the result of the Service member’s misconduct;

E1.5.3.3. Service-directed employment in another military specialty; for continental United States and overseas rotation, sea and shore rotation; other mission-essential requirements; or drawdown or elimination of the specialty;

E1.5.3.4. Involuntary reduction-in-force;

E1.5.3.5. Separation or reassignment for hardship or dependency;

E1.5.3.6. Separation of an enlisted Service member to permit acceptance of, or entry into a program leading to commission or warrant appointment. (Any unpaid portion of the bonus is suspended and shall terminate on commissioning or appointment; any unpaid portion of the bonus shall be paid on a pro rata basis if the Service member is not commissioned or appointed and returns to an enlisted status in the same bonus skill); or

E1.5.3.7. For such other reasons as determined by the PDUSD(P&R).

E1.5.4. Delegation of Authority. The Secretary of the Military Department concerned may delegate, but not below major command headquarters level, a determination that repayment is not required, or a determination that repayment shall be waived if waiver is statutorily authorized, under the conditions or circumstances set forth in subparagraph E1.5.3.1 through E1.5.3.4.

E1.5.5. Unpaid installments

E1.5.5.1. In the case of an enlistment bonus, an accession bonus for new officers in critical skills, an SRB, or a CSRB, if an enlisted Service member dies before receiving the full amount of the bonus due (including future anniversary payments) and death is not caused by the Service member’s misconduct (subparagraph E1.5.3.1), the remaining unpaid balance shall be included in the settlement of the deceased Service member’s final military pay account.

E1.5.5.2. Under conditions set forth in subparagraphs E1.5.3.2 through E1.5.3.6, the Secretary of the Military Department concerned may determine that unpaid installments shall be made to the individual Service member if the Secretary of the Military Department concerned determines that it is against equity and good conscience, or contrary to the best interest of the United States, to deny payment of future installments under the circumstances.

E1.5.6. Procedures for Recoupment or Termination of Installments. The Secretary of the Military Department concerned shall notify the Director, Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS), when future installments of a bonus shall not be made. The Secretary of the Military Department concerned shall also notify the Director, DFAS, if recoupment action is to be initiated or forward a waiver of recoupment approval under subparagraph E1.5.2.3., as applicable. Recoupment shall be accomplished in accordance with applicable debt collection procedures.

E1.5.7. Amount of Recoupment. Recoupment is required on a percentage basis for the time remaining to be served. Divide the amount of the bonus paid by the number of months for which the bonus is payable. This is the bonus amount per month. Multiply this number by the number of months and fractions of months not served (including lost time, unless such lost time has been made up). This is the amount to be recouped. For example: A Service member reenlists for 6 years (additional obligated service). Total bonus payable is $36,000. The Service member receives $18,000 in initial payment. This represents ½ of the total bonus payable, so the bonus was paid for ½ of the period of additional obligated service (½ of 6 years = 3 years = 36 months). Bonus amount per month is $18,000 ¸ 36 = $500 per month. Of this 36-month period, Service member serves 30 months (does not serve 6 of the 36 months). Recoup $500 x 6 = $3,000 if reason for separation requires recoupment.

E1.5.8. Bonus Recipients Serving in Out-of-Skill Assignments

E1.5.8.1. The purpose of enlistment, accession, reenlistment, and retention bonuses is to induce individuals to serve on active duty in designated critical military skills. That purpose makes assignment of bonus recipients to these designated military skills crucial to justify the use of a bonus. It is essential these individuals serve in the bonus military skills for the duration of the active duty agreement to the maximum extent practical. Service in a designated military skill shall include normal skill progression, as defined in Military Service classification manuals or military service in a comparable military skill. A Service member attending courses of professional military education, or advanced training or education related to the Service member’s skill, is considered to be serving in the critical military skill concerned. The Military Services shall clearly justify waivers given to bonus recipients who serve more than 1 consecutive tour out of skill.

E1.5.8.2. Recognizing that the need may arise to assign an individual in another military skill to meet continental United States or overseas rotation, sea and shore rotation, mission essential requirements, or humanitarian and/or medically dictated assignments, the Secretary of the Military Department concerned shall establish criteria for such assignments. The Secretary of the Military Department concerned shall establish procedures to ensure that all out-of-skill assignments are authorized only when warranted based on the needs of the Military Service.
E1.5.8.3. The Secretary of the Military Department concerned shall establish procedures to identify and monitor out-of-skill assignments of bonus recipients.

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