Thursday, November 29, 2007

Nickel-and-Diming Our Wounded: Iraq Vet Forced To Pay Back Army Bonus

Nickel-and-Diming Our Wounded: Iraq Vet Forced to Pay Back Army Bonus
Posted November 27, 2007 | 04:25 PM (EST)
Former Private First Class Jordan Fox was injured by a roadside bomb in Iraq. He suffered a serious back injury, and he lost sight in his right eye.

A few short weeks after his honorable discharge from the Army, a letter came by mail from the Defense Department. Was it a letter informing him of local veterans' clinics where he could receive vocational rehabilitation or counseling? No. A signed "thank you for your service" from the Secretary of Defense, or perhaps the President? No.

It was a bill for nearly $3,000.

Since Fox was too severely injured to complete his military service, the Defense Department was demanding that he return part of his enlistment bonus. In the Army bureaucracy, his wounds didn't matter. The Army machine wanted its money back.

Sadly, he is not alone. Some troops seriously wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan are being denied their full enlistment bonus by the Pentagon, while others are being asked to return money they have already received.

In July, the Dole-Shalala Commission exposed the Department of Defense policy that prohibits bonuses from being paid in full to service members unless their entire military commitment is fulfilled. Wounded troops, unable to continue to serve, are forced into an early military discharge, and thus, can be denied their full bonus.

However, new legislation gaining momentum in Congress promises to put an end to this loophole. The "Veterans Guaranteed Bonus Act" (H.R. 3793) would prevent wounded warriors from being unfairly penalized by requiring the Department of Defense to provide veterans discharged with combat-related injuries with full payment of any and all remaining enlistment bonuses within 30 days of discharge.

The men and women in uniform in Iraq and Afghanistan have served our nation proudly. Denying them their full enlistment bonus is a terrible way to welcome them home. The Veterans Guaranteed Bonus Act would ensure that all of our nation's wounded warriors receive the bonuses they have unquestionably earned.

Help us send the message to Congress that we cannot continue to nickel and dime these men and women who have given so much to serve our country.

UPDATE: Watch Jordan and his mother on CNN Headline News, along with IAVA's Todd Bowers, here.