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When Government Screws Up, Government Never Pays.

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This is unquestionably the ugliest story I have read in a very, very long time:

Short of troops to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan a decade ago, the California National Guard enticed thousands of soldiers with bonuses of $15,000 or more to reenlist and go to war.

Now the Pentagon is demanding the money back.

Nearly 10,000 soldiers, many of whom served multiple combat tours, have been ordered to repay large enlistment bonuses — and slapped with interest charges, wage garnishments and tax liens if they refuse — after audits revealed widespread overpayments by the California Guard at the height of the wars last decade.

It’s not often I want to say anything good about reporting by the LA Times, but this is one of those very rare occasions.  This is just criminal.

Here’s the deal – mistakes were made in the granting of these bonus’.  The real question is who made the mistakes.  According to the story, the California National Guard made more such overpayments than any other agency in other states.  This would indicate that the odds are it was the California National Guard that made the screw-up not the soldiers.  Furthermore, when it comes to the question of who screwed up, don’t you think we ought to make presumptions in favor of the soldiers who fought for the nation?

So, here’s a simple proposal.  For once Obama can issue an executive order everyone will get behind.  Obama can order that rather than hit the soldier with a bill and interest and penalties – and making the soldier file an appeal – hit the soldier with a notice of due process, then hire him or her a lawyer and execute that formerly appeals, now administrative, process before asking him or her pay back the money.  If a soldier acted in bad faith then they should pay the nation back, but if there is a misunderstanding or a simple mistake in the processing of paperwork, then really the government just needs to eat the loss.

If we cannot presume the soldiers that fight for our nation innocent, then is there really a presumption of innocence in our nation?


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