Good News for My Military Readers!

Do I have military readers?  Probably not.

But, on the off-chance that you or your families are lurking out there, Bob Krumm brings us word that they cannot take your signing bonuses if you are injured and cannot make war any more.  Here’s his comment:

Thanks to the exposure of this story by KDKA, the Army has corrected the problem for this soldier. It should never have happened, but was the result of a bureaucratic error.

Any other soldier who has errantly received notification that they have to pay back their signing bonus after a line-of-duty injury-related medical discharge should call the Army’s Wounded Soldier and Family Support Hotline at 1-800-984-8523 in order to reverse the charges.

Thanks to Bob for the info.

16 thoughts on “Good News for My Military Readers!

  1. Pingback: Amazing, Utterly Amazing « Newscoma

  2. May I just say, “hot damn.”

    I spent a great deal of last night being very very angry about this and trying to figure out what I could do. Thanks to you, B, and Bob, and other alert bloggers, and KDKA, for making things right.

  3. Pingback: Volunteer Voters » Reversing The Charge

  4. Do you figure this really was just a screw-up (they do happen), or a policy they tried to get away with but found they couldn’t?

  5. 1) The Army says it was a bureaucratic error. That does not mean it was a bureaucratic error. Given that the Pentagon is currently run by sociopathic technocrats who have proven time and again that no lie (or other callous deed) is too shameful to trot out in service of Dear Leader’s goals, I don’t think any official military statement can be given the benefit of the doubt any more. (Remember Jessica Lynch and Pat Tillman.)

    2) Forgive me if I fail to jump for joy on behalf of the thousands of soldiers still stuck in Iraq, or the millions of Iraqis suffering under illegal occupation.

    3) Two letters: VA.

  6. Church,
    When you’re dealing with an organization as big as the Army, as I have done for my entire adult life, it’s best to keep in mind Hanlon’s Razor: Never attribute to malice that which can be explained by incompetence.

    I got my first lesson in the disconnect between the Army’s personnel and pay systems when I was a brand new lieutenant and I was charged twice for 54 days of leave that I took between graduation and reporting to my first unit. It took over a year to correct the computer problem, and was solved only when my then fiancee managed to get the problem put before the IG just a month before I planned to take a long leave to get married.

    In the many years since then the two systems have grown only more dependent on computers which means that errors can permeate even more deeply.

    That being said, the Army is quite prompt at correcting problems like these once the situation is explained at a level high enough to fix it. KDKA did this soldier and many others a great service by shedding light on the problem.

  7. Hanlon’s Razor was concocted before the Bush administration came to power. Anyway, the language of Hanlon’s Razor assumes that malice and incompetence cannot coexist in the same space. In the last seven years our nation’s institutions (including the military) have seen a significant rise in dangerous mixtures of malice and incompetence (or, more accurately, very narrow ranges of competence). I do not mean to state that the fiasco was caused solely by malice, but that I would not assume that malice played no part.

    It’s a good thing that KDKA did its job, but (as I illustrate with examples 1 and 3 above) the military under its current civilian leadership most definitely does not always ‘promptly correct problems,’ especially when those problems originate at the highest levels.

  8. Church, I can tell you some stuff from personal experience. I was one of the first people the U.S. Army trained on S.I.D.P.E.R.S., which stands for Standard Installation and Division Personnel Reporting System. Essentially, it was the system in place to track enlisted personnel’s constant change of status, say, from present for duty to sick leave, or temporary duty to leave, didn’t matter. In the old days, for any officer to know what his particular unit’s strength was, he would literally have to muster his troops, and count heads. This went on until the Vietnam conflict, and I was sent to Indianapolis to learn this new system and implement it ASAP. Back then, there were bugs, but it did a decent job. Yes, the military is a HUGE bureaucracy, rife with hardwon fiefdoms, and difficult to make one’s way through. The problem with Bob K’s assessment is that all too frequently, it’s nearly impossible for a low level enlisted man to have his concerns looked into, and it can drag on for years.

    I highly doubt it was ever considered policy to actually revoke bonuses in the event of incapcitation, but, rather to have a system in place to recoup bonuses for soldiers that leave early for other reasons. Perhaps the computer did not differentiate, but merely calculated days of Present For Duty, and determined that the required amount of days had not been fulfilled prior to ETS. (leaving the military)

  9. It should be noted that I was grateful to go to Indianapolis instead of say, the Mekong Delta. The war had all but ended, but I was taking no chances. You had to have an extremely high GT (general technical) score to go to SIDPERS school, and mine qualified.

  10. Mack,
    You were a PAC clerk? I apologize for all the hell I put your brethren through every time I had to complain about why my sergeants were still getting specialist’s pay three or four months after they were promoted.

    Church, you’re a very bitter man. I hope that in spite of that you find the time to look around this Holiday and see all the wonderful things in this country that you do have to be thankful for.

  11. Heyyy, people, intersectionality. There’s plenty of room for malice, incompetence, apathy and acts of quantum physics in this mess.

    Can I coin a new razor? Magni’s razor: It’s not that simple. Or perhaps: “A single cause is rarely correct when a system is involved.” Or something.

    It takes a fair number of people to issue something official, even (especially?) a form letter.

    I work in what is in many respects a pretty simple system (‘obey thine boss, for his word is LAW’), but in order for me to send something as simple as a letter saying that we’ve moved offices, we had to first have a meeting to see if we wanted to send notice at all, then to determine whether it should be a postcard, letter, flyer, or other reminder, then to see who exactly should get what. After all that, each unit had to submit the names of all of the people that needed to be notified, then I had to compile them into a format that could be used, draft a letter, present it for inspection, print all of the final drafts on official letterhead, print all of the envelopes, get the envelopes stuffed, sealed, and sent out. (I’m still working on that last part.) That’s just for what essentially boils down to a form letter on a relatively trivial thing in a relatively simple system.

    In a beuracracy as big and complex as the one in question, many of the same steps probably applied. A small incompetence (“which list was the one for the people who need to give back our money?”), a dash of malice (“what good are they if they can’t fight? They owe us our money back. I’ll approve the letter”), some apathy (“hunh, that’s a weird letter”), a whole lot of situational crap (“I’d have to call how many people to unravel this?”), and a liberal sprinkling of chaos (“whoops! the computer spat out the wrong list of names”) … and you’re there. You can swap the steps around any which way you like it…. malice can nudge something to the right department, be overlooked by incompetence or apathy, and so on and so forth. It all blends together. Hell, most of it’s even deniable… it’s only in the aggregate that the evil manifests.

  12. This makes more sense to me:

    Is it absurd? Of course it is. Was it intentional? I doubt it. Probably 99% of the computer code written for the military is done by either civilian contractors or military personnel who are accustomed to office life and have never seen a day of combat in their military career (your truly, for example). For them it was a simple “IF-THEN” statement in their programming. IF [servicemember who received a (re)enlistment bonus leaves before their scheduled Date of Seperation] THEN [calculate the balance to be recoverd]. I’m sure at the time the code was written there were no provisions for medical discharges and because it was probably done during peacetime, no test data brought this flaw to anyone’s attention. I think this issue is a programming oversight in their financial software and not the military actually expecting to recover $3,000 from a kid with his face melted off. Given the obvious public outcry it would (is) generate, I can’t really see any rational person signing off on this as functioning as designed. I would imagine this issue will be corrected shortly and “whoopsies” issues to all the injured soldiers asked for a refund.

  13. Church, you’re a very bitter man. I hope that in spite of that you find the time to look around this Holiday and see all the wonderful things in this country that you do have to be thankful for.

    Mr. Krumm, I suppose I should offer you kudos for not diagnosing me with Bush Derangement Syndrome, which is what wingers usually say when someone criticizes the worst presidential administration in recent history. But then, that would be like giving out Olympic medals for not coming in last place.

    When I see what I have to ‘thankful’ for being put in jeopardy by bad government and public indifference, well, yeah, I get a little put out. A specially marked slot on the calendar (especially one dedicated to a holiday steeped in whitewashed, racist myth) ain’t going to change that. So I’ll be thankful that what I know and love about this country hasn’t yet been totally shitcanned by the wingnuts, the centrists, and the ‘sensible’ people.

    Thanks for the explanation, Mack, but I defer to Magniloquence for putting so eloquently some of what I was trying to say before.

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