Saturday, March 07, 2009

Soldiers still waiting for tour bonuses

Dammit, dammit, dammit!

I don't care who is holding up payments to soldiers who were promised monthly bonuses of up to $500 and were forced to remain on active duty beyond their enlistment period and have not been paid - that can wait for a minute. "Senior officials are disappointed that the recent trend has been going in the wrong direction with respect to the numbers (of soldiers currently stop-lossed)," If Senior Pentagon officials are "disappointed", what do you think the military members who are on stop loss and their families are? I don't think disappointed is how they would or should describe it. Outraged? Angry? Perhaps, they are just beaten down from the neglect. They sign a contract and expect the military to honor their side of it, but it just doesn't happen that way without a fight.

Congress approves funding for a program, civilians think it's done and they go on their merry way. A commission on the state of military hospitals is called, civilians think the hospitals are fixed and they go on their merry way. And when it comes to the followup, I assure you that burden falls in the laps of those members of the military and their families.

According to Gregg Zaroya at USA Today in an article on February 22, 2009,

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman acknowledged the five-month delay in paying the bonuses and said the Defense Department is working on a plan to start paying the almost 13,000 soldiers currently under the Army's stop-loss orders. Although Defense Secretary Robert Gates wants to end the policy, the number of soldiers affected has risen since the middle of 2007.

Congress added $72 million to pay for the bonuses in its plan for the budget year that started Oct. 1. The money was to be paid after the Pentagon submitted a plan outlining how the payments would be made.

But no plan has been submitted.

Many people familiar with the term "stop loss", to keep a troop beyond their enlistment contract or retirement date think "stop-loss" is a back door draft. Remember, these troops have fulfilled their military contract and now the Department of Defense just institutes a "stop-loss", voila! no contract end date, no going home soldier, until the DOD tells you to!

Since 2002, the military has relied on stop loss to keep its most skilled and experienced troops in the service. The Army is the only service that has used it in the past five years, according to a Congressional Research Service report released last month. The number of soldiers affected by stop loss peaked in 2005 at 15,758.

Gates first directed the Army to minimize the use of stop loss in January 2007. However, after falling to 8,540 in May 2007, the number of soldiers on stop loss has risen to almost 13,000 in December 2008, Army records show.

If Senior Pentagon officials are disappointed, they need to get un-disappointed. These troops were made a promise by Congress and the DOD and they expected that to be honored. The money is in the budget and it needs to be distributed as promised. I know the DOD can do better for our troops- it's time they show us how. If they can't figure it out, perhaps Congress needs to help them.

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