Soldier ordered to pay back signing bonus after being injured in Iraq
(Update at bottom: Senator Clinton calls on Pentagon to stop practice, will introduce legislation guaranteeing full payment to veterans)
Pentagon rescinds repayment order right before soldier's TV appearance
As the military struggles to fill its ranks after six years of war it is finding cold-hard cash to be a powerful enticement.
But for one soldier who was injured serving his country in its wars, the military had another demand: pay us back.
Jordan Fox was seriously injured by a roadside bomb earlier this year, and the Army asked him to repay $3,000 of the $10,000 enlistment bonus he received.
"It was kind of like a slap in the face to know that I had done my best and tried to serve my country with honor and have them turn around and say, 'Well you owe us money,'" Fox said on MSNBC's Live with Dan Abrams Tuesday.
Perhaps realizing the wave of bad publicity that would result from Fox's nationally televised appearance, the Pentagon reversed course just before the program aired and vowed not to send its debt collectors after the wounded soldier.
Fox is not alone, though. According to KDKA, a local station in Pittsburgh, Pa., the military "is demanding that thousands of wounded service personnel give back signing bonuses" after being injured in combat.
Since the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, more than 28,000 troops have been injured and nearly 4,000 have died, according to GlobalSecurity.org.
Fox said his parents were offended by the military's now-rescinded demand for re-compensation. They started a nonprofit, Operation Pittsburgh Pride, which has sent more than 4,000 care packages to US troops serving in combat. Fox's mother, Susan Wardezak, met with President Bush when he visited Pittsburgh last year.
Because his injuries -- a serious back problem and the loss of vision in his right eye -- shattered Fox's dream of becoming a police officer, his future is unclear. But the veteran says he has no regrets about joining the Army.
"I'd do it all over again... because I'm proud of the discipline that I learned. I'm proud to have done something for my country," he told KDKA.
The following video is from MSNBC's Abrams Report, broadcast on November 20, 2007
Clinton: Reverse 'outrageous' policy
The frontrunning Democratic presidential candidate wrote the Army secretary on Wednesday to call for an end to the Pentagon's "outrageous" repayment policy, according to a press release received by RAW STORY.
"I write to request the immediate reversal of an Army policy that requires repayment of enlistment bonuses by medically discharged wounded soldiers. According to recent media reports, the Army is directing wounded soldiers who have been medically discharged to repay their enlistment bonuses because they are unable to complete their term of enlistment," Sen. Clinton (D-NY) wrote Secretary of the Army Pete Geren. "This policy is outrageous and should be reversed immediately."
Clinton continued, "Soldiers who have enlisted in the Army have made a commitment to serve our nation. With our nation at war in Iraq and Afghanistan, we should honor those who make that commitment. By agreeing to serve and then suffering wounds during their service, these soldiers have earned their bonuses. To ask soldiers who are being medically discharged to return their bonuses dishonors their service and undermines the Army's stated commitment to soldiers and their families."
Clinton referred to other woes experienced by veterans in the recent past, ever since the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
"Since the beginning of the war in Iraq, wounded soldiers have faced numerous bureaucratic hurdles that have resulted in treatment that does not measure up to their service and sacrifice," Clinton wrote. "Whether it is the disgraceful treatment as outpatients at Walter Reed Army Medical center or the pay problems experienced by wounded soldiers, many wounded soldiers have been treated with indifference and neglect."
Clinton continued, "As a Senator on the Armed Services Committee, I have continuously raised the problems faced by wounded soldiers to Army leadership at hearings, meetings, through correspondence and by offering legislation. At each point, I have been assured by the Army and Defense Department leadership that they are working to improve the treatment of wounded soldiers. In light of this history, it shocks the conscience that the Army could demand that wounded soldiers return their enlistment bonuses."
"Therefore, I again request a reversal of the flawed policy of requiring wounded soldiers to repay their enlistment bonuses," Clinton added. "I also request any data that reflects the total number of medically discharged wounded soldiers who have been affected by this enlistment bonus repayment policy to date and the total amount of enlistment bonus repayment money collected to date."
Clinton vowed, "If the Administration does not reverse this misguided policy, Congress should pass legislation to set this right."
The press release further noted that "Senator Clinton announced that she will introduce legislation that requires the military services to continue to pay certain bonuses to a member of the Armed Forces who is medically retired or separated due to a combat-related injury. The legislation would amend Title 37 of the United States Code to guarantee full payment for various incentive payments for wounded servicemembers."