Friday, April 28, 2006

Yet Another Reason to Love the GAO

by Ken Houghton

How to Support the Troops: Bill them for the weapons they leave on the battlefield when they become a casualty!
Pull quote:
The underlying problem is an antiquated computer system for paying and tracking members of the military. Pay records are not integrated with personnel records, creating numerous errors. When soldiers leave the battlefield, for example, they lose a pay differential, but the system can take time to lower their pay.

English translation: you are not eligible for "combat pay" while you are in a hospital recovering from combat injuries.
The government then tries to recoup overpayments, docking pay for active-duty troops and sending debt notices to those who have left the military. Eventually, the government sends private agencies to collect debts and notifies credit bureaus

English translation: if your injuries are serious enough that you are honorably discharged as disabled, you will owe for the "combat pay" you received while recovering from combat.
A total of $1.5 million in debts has been linked to the 400 fallen soldiers and 900 wounded troops. Of the total, $124,000 has been repaid. The government has waived $959,000, and the remainder of $420,000 is still owed.

So about 2/3 of the charges were so inane that even the Army recognized them as bollocks.
Michael Hurst, a former Army finance officer in Arlington who has studied the issue, said the military should have taken action years ago to prevent the debts from being created.

Clearly, budgetary priorities did not include failing to "[l]iterally [add] insult to injury."
"It's a complete leadership failure," he said. "We can't expect the soldiers to notice mistakes in their pay that the paid professionals have failed to notice and correct."

But isn't this the strategy that has worked so well with HMOs and company pension plans?

The full report is here. For those without Adobe, here is the Abstract. The brightest note:
As a policy, DOD does not pursue collection of debts of soldiers who were killed in combat.
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