We support the troops
He didn't get paid for four months
'Nightline' Investigation: Wounded Soldiers Told They Owe Money to Army
Troops Face Financial Crises After Learning Army Overpaid Them During Hospitalization
By BRIAN ROSS
Jan. 31, 2006 — - It was one of the thousands of roadside bombs in Iraq that paralyzed Staff Sgt. Eugene Simpson.I wish I could say I was surprised.
"My first instinct was to jump farther back into the Humvee, you know, for protection," Simpson said. "But in doing that, I opened my back up to all the scrap metal and debris, which hit my spine and severed my spine, paralyzing me."
He was soon on a plane home.
Fast-working, skilled Army doctors saved his life, as they have so many.
Slow, bumbling Army bureaucrats would make his life miserable, as they have so many.
"And the military basically is, like, they turn their back on you, you kind of feel that you've just been used," Simpson said.
No Pay for Four Months
It started with a phone call from his wife, home with their four children. She didn't have enough money to pay the bills.
"And she was like, well, we haven't been paid," Simpson said. "And you know, instantly I was like, I don't know what to do. You know, I'm still in the hospital. I can't actually get up and go around and talk to these different people."
And until "Nightline" inquired at the Pentagon, Simpson said he could not find out what happened.
"Every day is something different," he said. "Well, this person isn't in. I'll have them call you back, give it a couple days. Couple days go by, I call back, well I got somebody else for you to talk to. And days lead to weeks, and weeks lead to months."
It turns out the Army had mistakenly continued to pay Simpson a combat duty bonus while he was in the hospital.
He had been overpaid thousands of dollars, and the Army wanted the money back.
"By law, he's not entitled to the money," said Col. Richard Shrank, "so he must pay it back."
Shrank said although that is the law, soldiers can apply for debt forgiveness if they believe the debt is a mistake. So far, more than 800 soldiers have done so. More than 600 of those requests have been granted, amounting to more than $600,000.
So, the Army said it withheld the paralyzed soldier's pay until it got back the amount he owed -- with no advance notice, Simpson said.
"Four months," he said. "I didn't get paid for four months."
An Ongoing Problem
Simpson is not the only one. A study commissioned by the First Infantry Division estimated that eight out of 10 of its wounded soldiers from Iraq have gone through the same or a similar ordeal.
Capt. Michael Hurst, now out of the Army, conducted the study.
"You have to understand that these soldiers are suffering from incredible injuries, some of them have lost limbs, some of them may never walk again," Hurst said. "And in the midst of that struggle, to then get a paycheck for nothing really hurts morale."
And the Army can play tough to get its money back.
In the case of Sgt. Ryan Kelly, who lost his leg in Iraq, he had just finished going through rehabilitation when the Army sent a letter threatening to ruin his credit and call in debt collectors.
Meanwhile, Simpson gave up trying to rectify the situation. "I mean, I've had people on the phone just flat out tell me, I can't help you, no need for you to call here anymore," he said.
Shrank said for those like Simpson, "I would tell those soldiers that I care about them," he said, adding, "And I want to see that they received their proper pay."
In fact, he told "Nightline," he wants soldiers in this situation to call him. "Yes," Shrank said. "If that's what it takes, yes."
According to the Army, 5,549 soldiers who were removed from battle for medical reasons later had payroll problems.
For soldiers who have exhausted all measures to seek assistance from their immediate supervisors within their chains of command, the Army invites them to call the U.S. Army Finance Command for additional help.
The number is (317) 510-3016.
This should be beyond politics. The warbloggers should be screaming about this, because it is just fucking criminal. People should be in jail for this.
But they won't. Because paralyzed soldiers, Sgt. Simpson has three young children, don't matter to them. They were all too busy calling Bob Woodruff an idiot on the radio and online today.
This is why conservative claims of supporting the troops ring so hollow. They go into combat without adequate armor and come home to a series of obstacles. Another paralyzed soldier can only get aquatherapy once every four months, while his arthritic wife cares for him.
I've seen this before and no one should be seeing this again
I wonder how many right blogs will post this story up. Because everything is not perfect in Little George's war and we owe these men and women anything we can give them, starting with decent medical treatment. But they will attack the media, blame the liberals, do anything but stare this in the face.
I saw this show before and I like the sequel as much as I liked the originial.
posted by Steve @ 1:57:00 AM