Friday, October 14, 2005

Taking care of the troops

I note that in this article in the Washington Post, the Pentagon says it already addressing the problem, which is good. We probably shouldn't be sending loan default notices from the Pentagon to troops in fire, let alone those who return home missing limbs. In another forum this week I ranted about how our government officials from both parties tend to cut funding for veteran care after a war is over - showing the shallowness of their support for the troops. And yet, people who tend not to support war, like myself, are out there complaining loudest about the lack of care. The article above just goes to prove my point, even if the problem is being addressed and only appears to affect 331 people, it shouldn't have happened in the first place. Now, if the good congressional folks who are helping these troops out can remember to do the same 5 years out of Iraq for the injured - physical and mental - I'll be impressed.

Kelly had been wounded in Iraq in July 2003, when his Humvee was blasted by a roadside bomb. "It blew my leg pretty much clean off," he said.

Like Loria, Kelly spent months at Walter Reed, recovering and learning to walk again without his lower leg and foot. The Army staff sergeant struggled with questions about his future. Because he had been injured as a reservist, he was told, there was no guarantee he could deploy to Iraq again. "I didn't want to stay in the Army if I was just going to be a warm body, filling a slot," he said.

When Kelly left the military last year, he recalled, "it was an intense, emotional time." He thought little of the final two checks totaling $2,700 because he was owed vacation and travel pay, he said. Later, he was bewildered as pay stubs continued to come in the mail, each blank except for a notation of a $2,230 debt.

Frustrated, Kelly called the Disabled Soldier Support System, a unit where a counselor told him the Army had mistakenly paid him for an extra 22 days. But Kelly said he was told it would all work out well because the military owed him for his leave and travel. A few weeks later, he said, "I got a check, and I thought, 'Oh, that's nice.' "

But after he and his wife moved to Arizona, he received a bill for $2,230 -- with the threat of a referral to a collection agency. "I was pretty speechless," he said.

When Kelly called the GAO, he learned that the debt was already listed on his credit history.

"What benefit is the Army getting, aggressively going after disabled service members for $500 or $1,000 or whatever? Why not give injured service members a little leeway?"

That sentiment is common.

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