For a moment, as the saying used to go, when I was in. The first part of that truism was, “The military will take care of you.” – This bitter wisdom is now being discovered anew by a number California National Guard troops, who – when they were offered bonuses for re-upping ten years ago, accepted the bonus, reupped and served … and ooops, now it turns out that they weren’t qualified or eligible for said bonus, and the Big Green Military Machine wants the money back. With interest and penalties, it would appear. The Big Military Administrative Machine writes and enforces the rules to suit the needs of the machine – a thing which is screamingly obvious to anyone who ever signed a contract of any sort with the Big Military Administrative Machine. (It was always a point of bitter observation to us overseas, that as the dollar-to-local-currency exchange rate rose or dropped, the military paymaster’s adjustment for that exchange rate lagged or sped up in a manner which invariably screwed the military member living on the local economy. The Big Military Administrative Machine will have their pound of flesh, regardless… And it will not favor the individual military member.)
Inter alia, I only ever was offered one bonus for reenlistment – my first, which I took – and which the Fed-Gov promptly took (skimmed off the top) a nice portion for taxes. I was an innocent in those days, and still did my own tax return. Knowing what I know now, I should have hired a competent CPA and clawed back at least some of that sum.
The California National Guard members who fell into this tangled snare appear to have fallen into one of these administrative black holes where the two responsible parties are now throwing the hot potato back and forth. “Not our fault!” Whines the California National Guard authority. (There was fraud involved in meeting retention and reenlistment goals. At least one of the NCOs responsible for submitting requests for bonuses for personnel who were not eligible is serving time.) “It’s all on the Pentagon – don’t blame us!” And the Pentagon tosses back the red-hot potato, screeching something about, “Proper procedures! You didn’t follow them, you nasty incompetent entity!” I honestly must wonder who in the Pentagon thought that this was a good idea to begin with – clawing back those funds from soldiers who signed a contract in good faith and lived up to their end of the bargain. And they are charging interest or something called a processing fee on the funds – which adds injury to insult. As another commenter on this pointed out – “If I bought something from Best Buy ten years ago, something with a generous rebate attached – and ten years later, Best Buy went over the rebate agreement and decided that I wasn’t after all, entitled to it – would they have any luck in demanding that I return it, with interest? I think not – but the federal government makes their own rules, apparently. I am also certain that taxes were paid on those bonuses by the recipients – pray tell, do they get any credit for that? What about going after the estates of those KIA who had received that bonus? That would show those soldiers and former soldiers just who is the boss and who are the little people around here.
And thus it goes. There does seem to be a bit of outrage building in the blogosphere, in military circles and even a starchy letter from Senators Boxer and Feinstein to the Pentagon since the story in the LA Times was first released, although Governor “Moonbeam” Brown seems to have been silent on the matter, so far. This disgusting policy might very well be reversed – I hope so, although the cynic in me suggests that if it were a racial minority that this policy was enacted on, the reaction to it would have been immediate and so uproarious that it would have been ended within a week of initiation – by executive fiat from the commander in chief, at the very least.
This story isn’t over, not by any means.