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05-01-06, 12:16 AM #1
Hundreds of soldiers wounded in Iraq now fighting off bill collectors
April 26, 2006 — Hundreds of soldiers wounded in battle in Iraq have found themselves fighting off bill collectors on the home front, according to a report to be released tomorrow. The draft report by the Government Accountability Office, which ABC News obtained, said that hundreds of wounded soldiers had military debts incurred through no fault of their own turned over to collection agencies.
"Financial friendly fire," said Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., chairman of the House Committee on Government Reform. "Because their financial records are so bad, this is a friendly fire where we are hurting and wounding our own."
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.
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."
Payroll Errors, Says Military
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.
"By law, he's not entitled to the money, so he must pay it back," said Col. Richard Shrank, the commander of the United States Army Finance Command.
The Army said it moved wounded soldiers out of the battlefield so quickly its accounting office could not keep up, resulting in numerous payroll errors.
05-01-06, 12:25 AM #2FishTail Guest
That's sad. In fact, it's a national disgrace.
No doubt we'd do the same screwed up thing though.
05-01-06, 04:09 AM #3The Army said it moved wounded soldiers out of the battlefield so quickly its accounting office could not keep up, resulting in numerous payroll errors.
05-01-06, 04:20 AM #4
It is sad. It's wrong. I recently heard about a soldier who had his flak vest removed and destroyed by the medics while he was unconsious. They didn't document that they did that and the army tried to bill him $5k or some absurd amount. The thing is with the debts listed in the article, most of the time it takes awhile for the military to catch on that they did that, and there is a loophole for having to pay it back. If the troop catches it first, they can try to pay it back, and if payroll doesn't accept it, have it documented, and when they come back for the money, they can't have it. But in these cases, it seems that the troops had no way of knowing cause they were in the hospital.
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