Monday, October 08, 2007

Supporting the Troops

A clever way of doing so is something like this: You write their orders for 729 days when 730 days would give them extra benefits. Then you send them to Iraq for 22 months and save all that extra benefit money:

When they came home from Iraq, 2,600 members of the Minnesota National Guard had been deployed longer than any other ground combat unit. The tour lasted 22 months and had been extended as part of President Bush's surge.

1st Lt. Jon Anderson said he never expected to come home to this: A government refusing to pay education benefits he says he should have earned under the GI bill.

"It's pretty much a slap in the face," Anderson said. "I think it was a scheme to save money, personally. I think it was a leadership failure by the senior Washington leadership... once again failing the soldiers."

Anderson's orders, and the orders of 1,161 other Minnesota guard members, were written for 729 days.

Had they been written for 730 days, just one day more, the soldiers would receive those benefits to pay for school.

"Which would be allowing the soldiers an extra $500 to $800 a month," Anderson said.

That money would help him pay for his master's degree in public administration. It would help Anderson's fellow platoon leader, John Hobot, pay for a degree in law enforcement.

"I would assume, and I would hope, that when I get back from a deployment of 22 months, my senior leadership in Washington, the leadership that extended us in the first place, would take care of us once we got home," Hobot said.

Both Hobot and Anderson believe the Pentagon deliberately wrote orders for 729 days instead of 730. Now, six of Minnesota's members of the House of Representatives have asked the Secretary of the Army to look into it -- So have Senators Amy Klobuchar and Norm Coleman.

On the other hand, this way of writing the orders does save the hard-working taxpayer some of that money the government is not supposed to get. It turns out that 1,162 troops are affected and that the number of days their orders fall short of getting the higher benefits is from one to twelve. Wow! So close, yet no cigar.

Army Secretary Pete Geren is working hard on fixing the problem, though.