In response to a national outcry over increasing reports about wounded troops being asked to pay back enlistment bonuses, the Pentagon has found that the rules were over-interpreted by some and has clarified the policy. The plain truth - the Pentagon will seek to recoup enlistment bonuses from wounded troops ONLY IF THE WOUNDS WERE SELF-INFLICTED THROUGH DELIBERATE AND OBVIOUS MISCONDUCT (suicide attempt, etc.).
This policy was re-stated by Brigadier General Michael Tucker (pictured above left), assistant surgeon general for Warrior Care and Transition, on the Military.com website on November 26th, 2007. Because of its importance, I reproduce it here in its entirety:
Soldiers who become ill or are wounded while on active duty are entitled to keep all recruitment bonuses due them.
The Army reiterated that policy today, after a Wounded Soldier inadvertently received a letter from the Army that stated he would be required to pay back any enlistment money he received.
“If you are ill or were injured while on duty, the Army will not ask you to repay any portion of your recruitment bonus,” said Brig. Gen. Mike Tucker, assistant surgeon general for Warrior Care and Transition. “This money will stay in the hands of our Soldiers.”
Army policy prohibits what is described as “recoupment” when it would be contrary to equity and good conscience, or would be contrary to the nation’s interests. Those circumstances include, for example, “an inability to complete a service agreement because of illness, injury, disability or other impairment that did not clearly result from misconduct.”
The Army is looking into the specifics behind former Soldier Jordan Fox, who was injured while serving in Iraq. Mr. Fox told news media he had received a letter from the Army stating he would be required to repay a $3,000 enlistment bonus.
The general said Soldiers who have received letters from the Army asking for repayment of a recruitment bonus should contact the Wounded Soldier and Family Hotline to report the issue as soon as possible.
“If there’s a problem, we are going to fix it,” Brig. Gen. Tucker said. “We are committed to honoring our Warriors and Families in transition.”
The hotline is staffed by subject-matter experts 24 hours a day, seven days a week to help speed the resolution of issues pertaining to wounded Soldiers and their Families. Callers will receive responses within 24 hours. For those who reside within the United States, the hotline can be reached at 800-984-8523.
Soldiers and Families may also call from overseas assignments via the Defense Switch Network 312-328-0002 and within the U.S., 328-0002.
The hotline also receives messages via email at: email@example.com.
A similar story, posted on the Navy Times website on November 29th, echoes this story, and adds one more proviso: Troops who are wounded will also continue to receive the remainder of their bonuses at their annual anniversaries of payment.
An article posted on November 30th, 2007 in Army.mil provides more information on General Tucker. Being a two-time combat veteran himself, General Tucker knows first hand what wounded combat veterans must deal with physcially and emotionally, and has acquired a reputation for being a "bureaucracy buster" on their behalf. The article also further discusses the concept of "Warrior in Transition Units (WTU)", designed to better facilitate a wounded veteran's transition back to a productive and satisfactory civilian life.
On November 6th, KTUU Channel 2 in Anchorage aired a story about the WTU recently implemented in Fort Wainwright, adjacent to Fairbanks. One of our returning veterans spoke highly of the quality, variety, and value of the services provided.