Friday, August 11, 2006

Per-Diem Suit Against Massachusetts National Guard Still Unresolved

Massachusetts National Guard P.R. image, showing a statue depicting Capt. John Parker, leader of the Lexington Minutemen.  The statue stands in Lexington Center, Lexington Massachusetts.  The statue was created by Henry Hudson Kitson in 1900Followers of this site know that one of the continuing stories I've been following is a lawsuit against the Massachusetts National Guard seeking reimbursement for per-diem payments owed when members of the Guard were activated and missioned to provide security for a variety of infrastructure sites in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

The individual guard members were activated, and received orders to go to these sites and provide a presence and security. However, the soldiers were not provided with lodging, travel or food, and were thus entitled to a daily payment for reimbursement of their expenses, according to a set schedule.

The Massachusetts National Guard commander, however, explicitly declared that there would be no stipend or per-diem payments for these postings. In essence, the Guard told these soldiers, that all expenses would be borne by themselves, and they would never be reimbursed.

When these soldiers attempted to get their reimbursements, and repeatedly queried the upper echelons of the Guard in Massachusetts, they were threatened with administrative retaliation if they persisted, including discharge from the guard. Other allegations in the lawsuit are that the decision of non-reimbursement was done as a deliberate cost-cutting measure by the Guard General in charge, and that some soldiers were also told that reimbursements had been terminated (which is false).

In the meantime, over a three year period, many members of the Guard were shelling out thousands of dollars, in some cases tens of thousands of dollars) in expenses for travel, lodging and meals, out of their own pockets.

The National Guard *did* start an audit (in May of 2005), but the audit is (according to court papers) not complete.

The latest hearing on the matter was on Friday, August 4, where the state and federal governments attempted to get the judge to dismiss the suit (covered briefly by the Boston Globe),
Government lawyers argued today that a federal judge doesn't have the authority to consider a lawsuit filed on behalf of Massachusetts National Guardsmen who were denied reimbursement for expenses they paid out of their own pockets while protecting sites around the state following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

US District Judge Richard G. Stearns said he'll take the government's motion to dismiss the lawsuit under advisement. Lawyers for the federal and state government claim the soldiers' claims should be handled administratively by the Guard and an Army review board.

Of course, if the Guard and Army had handled this mater expeditiously in the first place, the soldiers would not have felt the need to bring the suit at all.

The AP has an article that expanded on Judge Stearns' decision to defer a decision on the government's request for dismissal of the suit.

The Guard acknowledged Friday that the ongoing audit revealed it has failed to reimburse some soldiers. Both sides were in court Friday, when federal lawyers argued for dismissal based on jurisdictional issues.

U.S. District Court Judge Richard G. Stearns on Monday said that because the Guard plans to have the audit done within two months, he'll wait.

"Because the results of the audit may resolve a number of the pending claims of both existing and possibly future plaintiffs, the court will defer its decision on the jurisdictional issues for a reasonable period of time, this to permit the administrative process to proceed," Stearns wrote.

Guard officials say the number of soldiers and the total amount owed were not known.

It has been over a year since the audit was started. I'm sure that it doesn't take that long to track down the orders that missioned these soldiers to duty, and to verify that they were *not* paid.

Admit that the soldiers were stiffed, and pay them the money owed.

These are citizens who volunteered to serve and protect their nation.

They deserve our respect and honesty.

See other articles from my blog on this issue:

01/12/2006 - Massachusetts Guardsmen seek pay for post-9/11 duty
03/02/2006 - Suit over Massachusetts National Guard reimbursements continues
06/06/2006 - Updates To some Continuing Stories

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