CA Estate Planning Blog

Friday, December 30, 2016

Military Benefits Mess Not A Surprise

From 2004 to 2015, some members of the California National Guard were given bigger bonuses than they should have for reenlisting. When the government attempted to claw-back the money, they ruined a bunch of soldiers’ finances, and sparked public outrage. For those of us that deal with military and veterans’ benefits on a regular basis, this mess was not surprising.

What Happened?

During the height of the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, around 9,700 soldiers from California were given overly large benefits for reenlisting or for going to school after their active service ended. All of this came to light when an investigation revealed that some recruiters were committing fraud in order to bilk the military out of money.

Not all of the soldiers who were given more money than they were supposed to get knew about the fraud that was going on, but the government decided to treat everyone the same way and attempt to claw-back any and all overpayments. Some of the soldiers were told they had to repay $15,000 or more, often years after their military service. They were told if they didn’t pay up, their wages would be garnished and liens would be placed against their homes.

When this story hit the papers, the public was outraged. So were many elected officials. The Pentagon announced that it would pause claw-backs until it figured out how to set up a quick appeals process that would be able to sort out the fraudsters from soldiers who unknowingly got more benefits than they should have, but this was not good enough for Congress. Congress is directly the Pentagon to forgive the debts related to these overpayments unless the government can prove the soldier acted fraudulently. 

Not The Only Mix-Up

While all the news about overpayments was coming out, other soldiers came forward to say that they were still waiting on payments the government had promised them. Apparently, at the same time the government had been paying some soldiers way more than it should have, other had been shorted.

Dealing With Issues Of Your Own?

The fact that military and veterans benefits are a hot mess is a very poorly kept secret. Those of us that work with veterans to help them secure the benefits they are entitled to have known for years that the system needs some serious work.

Our office does a lot of work with veterans to help them secure their Aid and Attendance pensions. Aid and Attendance is available to veterans who need the assistance of another person to perform daily tasks, who need long term care, who are blind, and/or those who are in a nursing home or assisted living facility, but only if they served on active duty and were honorably discharged. It can be really difficult to get this benefit because there are errors in the active duty and discharge records the government is relying on.

While paperwork seems to be one of the military’s favorite things, it is not always one of its strong suits. 


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