Why do I have to complete a CAPTCHA? Completing the CAPTCHA how Much Money Can I Give Away Without Tax Implications you are a human and gives you temporary access to the web property. What can I do to prevent this in the future? If you are on a personal connection, like at home, you can run an anti-virus scan on your device to make sure it is not infected with malware. If you are at an office or shared network, you can ask the network administrator to run a scan across the network looking for misconfigured or infected devices.
Another way to prevent getting this page in the future is to use Privacy Pass. Check out the browser extension in the Firefox Add-ons Store. Army combat medic Shawn Aiken dresses for a hospital visit in El Paso, Texas. EL PASO, Texas – As Christmas 2011 approached, U. Army medic Shawn Aiken was once again locked in desperate battle with a formidable foe.
Not insurgents in Iraq, or Taliban fighters in Afghanistan – enemies he had already encountered with distinguished bravery. This time, he was up against the U. Aiken, then 30 years old, was in his second month of physical and psychological reconstruction at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, after two tours of combat duty had left him shattered. But the problem that loomed largest that holiday season was different. The Defense Department was withholding big chunks of his pay. He quickly raised the issue with staff.
All Aiken knew was that the Defense Department was taking back money it claimed he owed. Beyond that, “they couldn’t even tell me what the debts were from,” he says. At the time, Aiken was living off base with his fiancee, Monica, and her toddler daughter, while sharing custody of his two children with his ex-wife. As their money dwindled, the couple began hitting church-run food pantries. Aiken took out an Army Emergency Relief Loan to cover expenses of their December move into a new apartment. At Christmas, Operation Santa Claus provided the family with presents – one for each child, per the charity’s rules.
The couple was desperate from “just not knowing where food’s going to come from,” he says. They just hit one button and they take your whole paycheck away. And then you have to fight to get the money back. Aiken’s injuries made that fight more difficult. He limped from office to office to press his case to an unyielding bureaucracy. With short-term and long-term memory loss, he struggled to keep appointments and remember key dates and events.
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His PTSD symptoms alienated some staff. The money the military took back from Aiken resulted from accounting and other errors, and it should have been his to keep. Further, even after Aiken complained, the Defense Department didn’t return the bulk of the money to Aiken until after Reuters inquired about his case. It is responsible for accurately paying America’s 2. 7 million active-duty and Reserve soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines. It often fails at that task, a Reuters investigation finds.
A review of individuals’ military pay records, government reports and other documents, along with interviews with dozens of current and former soldiers and other military personnel, confirms Aiken’s case is hardly isolated. Pay errors in the military are widespread. Too often, a soldier who has a problem with his or her pay can wait days, weeks or even months to get things sorted out,” Democratic Senator Thomas Carper of Delaware, chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, wrote in an email. Reuters found multiple examples of pay mistakes affecting active-duty personnel and discharged soldiers. Some are erroneously shortchanged on pay. Others are mistakenly overpaid and then see their earnings drastically cut as DFAS recoups the money, or, like Aiken, they are forced to pay money that was rightfully theirs.
Precise totals on the extent and cost of these mistakes are impossible to come by, and for the very reason the errors plague the military in the first place: the Defense Department’s jury-rigged network of mostly incompatible computer systems for payroll and accounting, many of them decades old, long obsolete, and unable to communicate with each other. In a December 2012 report on Army pay, the Government Accountability Office said DFAS and the Army have no way to ensure correct pay for soldiers and no way to track errors. 47 billion in reported fiscal year 2011 Army active duty military payroll includes Army servicemembers who received pay to which they were not entitled and others who did not receive the full pay they were due. In a written response to the report, Robert Hale, the Defense Department’s comptroller, said, “I agree that we need to strive to improve payroll accuracy,” but added that the GAO had overstated the problem and mischaracterized some of the debts as errors. IN THE DARK: When Shawn Aiken sought answers about the deductions from his pay, “they couldn’t even tell me what the debts were from,” he says. Pay errors are part of a larger phenomenon that Reuters will explore in a series of articles: the Defense Department’s endemic failure to keep track of its money – how much it has, how much it pays out and how much is lost or stolen. 8 billion – by far the largest chunk of the annual federal budget approved by Congress.
Yet the Pentagon is literally unable to account for itself. As proof, consider that a law in effect since 1992 requires annual audits of all federal agencies – and the Pentagon alone has never complied. It annually reports to Congress that its books are in such disarray that an audit is impossible. For all its errors, Pentagon record-keeping is an expensive endeavor. 3 billion to operate, maintain and modernize the more than 2,200 systems it uses to manage finances, human resources, logistics, property, and weapons acquisitions, according to an April 2012 GAO report. The issue has yet to garner much attention in the political arena, despite continuing debate over the U. More immediately, the mess in Pentagon pay in particular carries implications for national security.
Officers complain that the difficulty of keeping track of personnel makes it harder to deploy men and women in times of war. Retired four-star Navy Admiral William J. Fallon says that while serving in 2007 and 2008 as chief of the U. Central Command, overseeing joint military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, he had to maintain “an incredibly bloated staff” from each of the services to keep him informed of the numbers and availability of troops. This way of doing business has also proved resistant to change.
A recalcitrant bureaucracy, competing priorities – war, among others – and until recently, congressional indifference have stymied any efforts to impose order. 1 billion before the Pentagon killed it. If you look at the things this country has done, how hard is this? If someone could put something like Facebook together or Google, one would think that bringing these decades-old military personnel and pay systems into the 2012 world shouldn’t be that hard. 1,000 here, a few hundred there. 23,000, or a wounded veteran on disability, they can be devastating. Former soldiers have had their civilian wages and their Veterans Administration benefits garnished.
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They have been pursued by private collection agencies and forced to pay tax penalties. DFAS to depend heavily on “manual workarounds,” another source of errors. Neither the Pentagon or DFAS or the military services can specify how many workers are used to handle these tasks, but “it takes a massive amount of human effort,” says Roy Wallace, an Army assistant deputy chief of staff. At last count, there were 167 manual workarounds” for the 40-year-old pay system used by DFAS and all the services except the Marines, he says.
As a result, staff often must transcribe information from one system onto paper, carry it to another office, and hand it off to other workers who then manually enter it into other systems – a process called “finger-gapping” that Wallace faults as a further source of errors. Another sort of workaround was a main reason for Aiken’s hardships at Fort Bliss. Injured by a rocket-propelled grenade in Afghanistan, Aiken was eventually sent to an Army hospital in Landstuhl, Germany. Upon arrival there, he should have been designated as a “wounded warrior,” a status that would have automatically forgiven all debts related to the overpayments DFAS later claimed and entitled him to benefits he didn’t receive. Lacking a unified, automated system to process soldiers arriving from combat zones, DFAS had to post staff at Landstuhl to do the work in person, by hand – but only for those soldiers arriving by air. Aiken, who had already moved with his unit from Afghanistan to another location in Germany, arrived by bus. We’re not out to screw our own people,” said Defense Department Comptroller Hale, to whom DFAS reports.
The military pay system is just very complex. DFAS said pay errors are extremely rare. Based on a self-audit, it said, its accuracy for pay and calculation of benefits for military personnel in the nine months through July 2012 was 99. The agency also said it had undergone partial audits for pay accuracy by the inspector general of the Defense Department and by the GAO.
But a spokeswoman for the Defense Department inspector general and a senior GAO official said their respective offices hadn’t audited the overall accuracy of DFAS pay in the past five years, and neither could recall any such audit ever having been conducted. Further, in a report issued in February this year, the Defense Department inspector general found “significant deficiencies” in DFAS’s own internal auditing organization. These included failure to “exercise sufficient professional judgment,” ineffective quality-control monitoring and failure to comply with required accounting standards. Her boss, Pentagon Comptroller Hale, backed that decision.