Turns out that soldiers who have been wounded in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere are now facing combat once they have arrived home -- except this time the battle is with credit agencies sent by the US Government according to this article in the Washington Post.
Yes, that's right. Soldiers who serve this country and risk their lives come back home, sometimes missing limbs or eyes or with other severe injuries, only to find that the Army has decided to hound them for the extra $500 or so they were paid in combat pay while they were recuperating in the hospital from their wounds.
In one case, a soldier arrived at Walter Reed to find a bill already waiting for him for the return of his sign-up bonus. He'd been wounded before the period of service required for the bonus had expired. "Oh, I'm sorry you lost your LEG, but give us our money back?" That is what our veterans get these days? Shameful!
The WaPo does a fantastic job of chronicling the case of one particular soldier, Robert Loria, which is particularly poignant. Loria returned from Iraq missing a hand and part of his left arm, his body riddled with shrapnel and unable to walk. After recouperating in Walter Reed, he went home to find that the Army had garnished his wages right before Christmas, and set debt collection agencies on him to recover the money from their clerical error.
"They call and they call and they call," he said. "They're nasty to me." Sometimes, he said, he feels outraged. "I don't know how much you want from me. I already gave you one arm and a part of a leg."Look, I know we have a lot of people in uniform. I don't expect everyone to get everything right all the time. But these people see things that those of us here at home never have to face, they fight in battles that scar them for the rest of their lives emotionally, if not physically. Hell, I have a great uncle who still won't talk about what he did in WWII without being so drunk he can't stand up. They deserve treatment that is much better than this. I'm appalled.
It took intervention by Sens. Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer, and Rep. Maurice Henchey (all Dems. from NY where Loria lives) to intervene with the Pentagon to get this cleared up, after Loria and his wife spent months dealing with this mess. The man lost his hand and his biggest worry was losing his car or house because of these extra payments, instead of worrying about the therapy required to get better. That is so wrong!
And it should not take phone calls from Senators to get it through someone's head that our wounded veterens deserve better treatment than being treated like a deadbeat. For shame!
Photo by Dominick Fiorille - Middletown Times Herald Record.