Murphy's Law: Billing The Dead

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February 7, 2008: Over the last decade, the U.S. Department of Defense has sharply increased bonuses and benefits for the troops. Since 2003, the army has increased spending on retention bonuses from $85 million a year, to over $700 million. The higher figure is still less than one percent of payroll cost, and is but one of several high value cash benefits that total several percent of payroll cost. The other big one is college education loans and cash to cover education expenses.

But as all of this was put together over the years of peace, one item was overlooked. What if the beneficiary of these bonuses and loans was killed in action? The existing regulations made no provision for that, but did recognize that recipients might be unable to finish their service because of misbehavior or illness. And the remedy for that was paying back all or part of the bonuses and loans already received. That worked in peacetime, but in the past few years, the military bureaucrats have automatically applied the peacetime rules to troops who were killed in combat. That raised a stink, and now Congress is passing laws to amend all these benefits deals, so that the next-of-kin of those killed in action will not have government bill collectors sent in right after the funeral.

 


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