By Steve Benen, The Carpetbagger Report
Posted on November 20, 2007
This post, written by Steve Benen, originally appeared on The Carpetbagger Report
When Jordan Fox was serving in Iraq, his mother helped organize Operation Pittsburgh Pride, which sends thousands of care packages to U.S. troops from his hometown, which prompted a personal "thank you" from the White House. When Fox was seriously injured in Iraq, the president sent what appeared to be personal note, expressing his concerns to the Fox family.
But more recently, Fox received a different piece of correspondence from the Bush administration.
The U.S. Military is demanding that thousands of wounded service personnel give back signing bonuses because they are unable to serve out their commitments.
To get people to sign up, the military gives enlistment bonuses up to $30,000 in some cases.
Now men and women who have lost arms, legs, eyesight, hearing and can no longer serve are being ordered to pay some of that money back.
I watched the report from the CBS affiliate in Pittsburgh, and I kept thinking, "This can't be right." Apparently, it is.
In Jordan Fox's case, he was seriously injured when a roadside bomb blew up his vehicle, causing back injuries and blindness in his right eye. He was sent home, unable to complete the final three months of his military commitment.
Last week, the Pentagon sent him a bill: Fox owed the government nearly $3,000 of his signing bonus.
"I tried to do my best and serve my country. I was unfortunately hurt in the process. Now they're telling me they want their money back," Fox said.
Look, if a soldier signed a contract, collected a signing bonus, and then quit, I can understand the military asking for the signing bonus back.
But we're talking about troops who volunteered, served, and were seriously injured. It's not their fault they got hurt. How on earth is the Pentagon justified in asking for a refund?
In Jordan Fox's case, he doesn't have $3,000 lying around to give the government, and his injuries are such that he had to give up on his goal of becoming a police officer.
For what it's worth, Fox's congressman, Democrat Jason Altmire, has introduced a bill to prohibit the Bush administration from asking the troops for refunds.
Mr. Altmire, D-McCandless, held a news conference yesterday at the Ross municipal building with Spc. Kaminski and other veterans to tout legislation he has authored to aid wounded soldiers.
At the forefront was a bill introduced last week and sent to committee that targets a Defense Department policy preventing eligible soldiers from receiving their full bonuses if discharged early because of combat-related injuries.
"Hard as it may be to believe, the Department of Defense has been denying injured servicemen and women the bonuses that they qualified for," Mr. Altmire said.
He said he drafted the legislation after hearing "outrageous" examples of bonuses being denied.... Mr. Altmire's legislation, the Veterans Guaranteed Bonus Act, would require the Defense Department to pay bonuses in full within 30 days to veterans discharged because of combat-related wounds.
Seems like a no-brainer.
Steve Benen is a freelance writer/researcher and creator of The Carpetbagger Report. In addition, he is the lead editor of Salon.com's Blog Report, and has been a contributor to Talking Points Memo, Washington Monthly, Crooks & Liars, The American Prospect, and the Guardian.