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Despite promises, shutdown has delayed troops' bonus payments

Oct. 2, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
Potentially thousands of troops have not received their bonuses due to a glitch or processing delay thanks to the government shutdown.
Potentially thousands of troops have not received their bonuses due to a glitch or processing delay thanks to the government shutdown. (Marine Corps)
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Potentially thousands of troops have not received their bonuses due to a glitch or processing delay between the Pentagon and the Treasury Department — another fallout from the federal shutdown.

Dozens of sailors told Navy Times that they had not received annual payments of selective re-enlistment bonuses, which are typically paid by Oct. 1, saying the money had not been sent to their account and that the Defense Finance and Accounting Services told them the payouts were delayed.

The shortchanging of bonus money was confirmed by a defense official and could be hitting the Army and Air Force. A Marine Corps personnel spokeswoman said no Marines were expecting SRB checks on Oct. 1 or Oct. 2, so therefore, no one had been shortchanged. Even so, the Corps is unable to make any bonus paymetns at this time because the money is unavailable.

It’s evidence the shutdown is having unfortunate affects on service members’ pocketbooks despite the promises of Congress and the Obama administration. It also runs counter to the services’ assurances that these bonuses will be paid on time.

“We have been authorized to make the payments, but there isn’t money in the Treasury or money in DFAS to make the payments,” said one defense official, who explained the situation on condition of anonymity.

The Treasury furnishes all the services with money for paychecks.

Impacted sailors could be shorted thousands of dollars until the payments pick up. For example, Navy SRBs can reach $90,000, with half paid to sailors at the time of re-enlistment and the other half paid via installments on the first day of every fiscal year of the re-up period.

That means every sailor expecting an SRB — 127 skill sets are eligible, and $134 million was budgeted for SRBs fiscal 2013, Navy officials said in March — could be short significant sums of money.

A DFAS spokesman referred questions to DoD; a DoD spokesman did not immediately respond to phone calls and messages seeking comment. None of the officials was able to pinpoint the exact nature of the problem or estimate when it would be corrected. Personnel officials said they are working to get it fixed.

“We certainly regret the inconvenience and hardship that the shutdown has caused our sailors, civilians and families,” said Lt. Cmdr. Chris Servello, spokesman for the chief of naval personnel. “Navy personnel authorities are working closely with Defense Department pay officials to determine when missed or delayed payments will be made — all owed monies will be paid when funds become available. We appreciate the continued patience.”

One of the many affected is a Fire Controlman 2nd Class (SW) Don Sands, who decided to call DFAS on Wednesday after realizing that his annual $2,800 bonus didn’t deposit into this bank account, as it’s supposed to on Oct. 1.

“I called DFAS, and they said unless the secretary of defense authorizes the issuance of the SRBs or the Treasury authorizes it, we’re not going to get them until the end of the shutdown,” Sands told Navy Times.

“I think the biggest thing about SRBs is a lot of us knew it was coming up and made some decisions,” said Sands, who is an instructor at Training Support Center Great Lakes, Ill. “We were counting on these bonuses to pay off our debts.”

Another fire controlman said he also was missing his $1,500 bonus that was supposed to be deposited Tuesday, calling it “a headache, to say the least.”

Sailors would be getting these payments and all other payments on time, the chief of naval personnel said Tuesday in a Navy Times report. But after this story went online, dozens of sailors commented via Facebook that they were not receiving their bonus payments.

“I didn’t get my SRB on time,” commented Richard Kinnison on Navy Times’ Facebook page. “I’ve always got it the night on the 1st, available the 2nd. Mine hasn’t been deposited.”

Many others chimed in.

“Commands are informing their sailors that SRBs are on hold until the shutdown is over,” commented Leah Washington.

Others were just upset with all the back-and-forth.

“I don’t think anybody knows for sure what is going on,” lamented one Navy spouse. “Ask 10 different people and you will get 10 different answers.”

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