Pentagon Demands Wounded Soldier Return Re-enlistment Bonus

Just in time for the holidays, there's a special place in Hell just waiting to be filled by some as-yet-unknown Pentagon bureaucrat. Apparently, thousands of wounded soldiers who served in Iraq are being asked to return part of their enlistment bonuses -- because their injuries prevented them from completing their tours. From Pittsburgh's KDKA:

One of them is Jordan Fox, a young soldier from the South Hills.

He finds solace in the hundreds of boxes he loads onto a truck in Carnegie. In each box is a care package that will be sent to a man or woman serving in Iraq. It was in his name Operation Pittsburgh Pride was started.

Fox was seriously injured when a roadside bomb blew up his vehicle. He was knocked unconscious. His back was injured and lost all vision in his right eye.

A few months later Fox was sent home. His injuries prohibited him from fulfilling three months of his commitment. A few days ago, he received a letter from the military demanding nearly $3,000 of his signing bonus back.

"I tried to do my best and serve my country. I was unfortunately hurt in the process. Now they're telling me they want their money back," he explained.

Perversely, President Bush phoned Fox's mother to ask after Fox in May. Now his administration is taking money out of the pockets of wounded veterans like him.

Back in October, Rep. Jason Altmire (D-PA) introduced a bill, the Veterans Guaranteed Bonus Act, that would require the Pentagon to pay bonuses to wounded vets in full within 30 days after discharge for combat-related wounds. Back then, the Pentagon's flack vaguely assured The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "We are going to give our wounded warriors and their families what they need to recover and return to duty or private life." But apparently the policy has yet to change. It seems that the enlistment contract that at least some troops sign (whether it's service-specific is unclear) allows for withholding some of the signing bonus if a tour isn't completed. We're in touch with the Pentagon to clear this up, and we'll let you know as soon as we do.

Thanks to TPM Reader DB.

(Via TPMmuckraker.)