Pentagon wants US battle-injured soldiers settle their debts
“Those guys in the White House really have no shame. They want to collect the money allegedly owed to the government by the soldiers who served in Iraq, by the families of those who were killed out there,” said the 25-year old U.S. Army Sergeant (Retired) Ryan Kelly who lost his leg while on a battlefield near Baghdad. He burst into tears during an interview to journalists.
Ryan Kelly is one of 1,500 U.S. soldiers and officers killed or seriously wounded during combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq who Pentagon put on the list as having “bad debts.” The U.S. Government Accountability Office submitted its report on the problem to Congress. The GAO report effectively tipped off the Pentagon on a way to cover multimillion losses. The report says the soldiers officially owe the government $1.5 million.
According to USA TODAY, so far the government has collected $124 thousand from the Army veterans and families of servicemen killed in action. Several cases with regard to soldiers’ debts are currently in court. The aforementioned Ryan Kelly resisted the government’s efforts to collect the money for a year. The government demanded that he repay $2,231.
Experts indicate that as a rule the Army accountants are not advised promptly on a soldier’s demise or retirement due to injury. Therefore, accountants keep making wire transfers to accounts of those who should have been deleted from the payroll due to above reasons. The Pentagon also frequently billed solders for equipment e.g. gas masks or body armor left behind on the battlefield.
These days the Pentagon is seriously concerned about the decline of morale of the U.S. troops stationed in Iraq. There were cases of disobedience and refusal to follow orders. One case involved an Army field engineer who reportedly dismantled his machine gun and declared he would not shoot at the enemy until he was paid a three-month wage.
U.S. Army psychiatrists have recently examined more than six thousand servicemen prior to their tours to Iraq and after their return from the combat zone. The results of the examination show that more than 17 percent of the servicemen were likely to suffer from depression. The majority of the servicemen would rather not have another tour of duty in the combat zone.
According to British newspaper Independent, an average monthly pay of a U.S. soldier in Iraq is 4,160 U.S. dollars and 75 cents. Iraqi servicemen are paid $343 a month under contract with the Pentagon. According to the World Bank estimates, the costs of Iraq’s restoration should total $35.8 billion. More than 2.5 thousand U.S. servicemen have been killed during the Iraqi military campaign. More than 250 foreign nationals were kidnapped, 66 journalists were killed during since the beginning of the U.S.-led invasion in Iraq.
For a long time in the past, issues relating to payment of the so-called “combat allowances” or bonuses paid for taking part in combat operations in Chechnya gave rise to a number of large-scale scandals and abuses in Russia. According to Chairman of the Military Commission, Deputy Chairman of the Russian Supreme Court Nikolai Petukhov, thousands of claims in connection with delayed payment or nonpayment of “combat allowances” had been filed to Russian courts by 2003. The back pay amounted to 344 million rubles as of August 2002. Experts maintained that the delay in payments was largely caused by confusion in personal records of the military personnel who took part in combat.
The Russian Defense Ministry eventually settled the debts after taking several radical steps. All overdue amounts relating to “combat allowances” have been paid back, today’s soldiers stationed in the North Caucasus are paid in time, says Lyubov Kudelina, the chief finance officer at the Russian Defense Minister.
Translated by Guerman Grachev
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