Outside editorial: Government should pay bonuses to injured vets

Posted: Thursday, December 13, 2007

Here's a classic story of heartless misplacement of risk.

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A soldier in combat suffers debilitating wounds and is mustered out of the armed forces early. So what does the Pentagon do?

It tells him to return part of his enlistment bonus on the grounds that, because of his injuries, he failed to complete the enlistment for which he contracted.

That's the story of Iraq veteran Jordan Fox, who was wounded in a bombing. There have reportedly been similar cases in the last few years.

For example, National Public Radio recently reported on Army Spc. Ronald Hinkle, who suffered a brain injury and was told he wouldn't receive $3,000 of his bonus because his injuries prevented him from serving out his enlistment.

Rep. Duncan Hunter of California, the ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, says it's already Pentagon policy that enlistment bonuses for wounded combat veterans be paid in full within 30 days. The problem: The policy is not consistently implemented.

So several House members have introduced a bill to make that policy the law. It's a sad comment on modern bureaucracy that such legislation is needed, but Congress should ensure that this sort of outrage doesn't happen again.

The risk that a service member cannot complete his or her enlistment because of combat or other injury in the line of duty should be borne by the government, not the individual soldier, sailor, airman or Marine.

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