Thursday, October 04, 2007

After 22-month deployment, National Guardsmen denied education benefits for being one day short

Top: Soldiers of the 2nd Combined Arms Battalion, 136th Infantry Regiment of the Minnesota National Guard at a December memorial for (Below) fallen Army Sgts. Nicholas D. Turcotte, Corey J. Rystad, and Bryan T. McDonough. From six months of training at Camp Shelby in Mississippi to an extended 16-month tour in Iraq, they’d been away from home since October 2005, returning late this summer.

Iraq vets say Pentagon is denying benefits

When they came home from Iraq, 2,600 members of the Minnesota National Guard had been deployed longer than any other ground combat unit.

The tour lasted 22 months and had been extended as part of President Bush's surge.

And 1st Lt. Jon Anderson says he never expected to come home to this: A government refusing to pay education benefits he says he should have earned under the GI bill.

"It's pretty much a slap in the face," Anderson said. "I think it was a scheme to save money, personally. I think it was a leadership failure by the senior Washington leadership, once again failing the soldiers."

Here's what happened: Anderson's orders, and the orders of 1,161 other Minnesota guard members, were written for 729 days. Had they been written for 730 days -- one day more -- the soldiers would receive those benefits to pay for school.

"Which would be allowing the soldiers an extra $500 to $800 a month," Anderson said.

Read the rest at KARE 11

Troops denied education benefits by 1 day?

Nearly half of the members of one of the longest-serving U.S. military units in Iraq are not eligible for a more generous military educational benefit, with some falling one day short of eligibility.

The Army has agreed to review the status of the Minnesota National Guard’s 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 34th Infantry Division, with an eye toward improving their educational benefits.

All 2,600 of the soldiers, who returned this year from Iraq, are eligible for money for school under the GI Bill. But nearly half discovered they weren’t eligible for a more generous package of benefits available to other soldiers.

The Army Board for Correction of Military Records, which says its mission is “to correct errors in or remove injustices from Army military records,” will be reviewing the cases.

Read the rest at Army Times

U.S. Army secretary works to fix GI Bill for Minnesotans

Almost half of the 2,600 Minnesota National Guard soldiers who deployed with the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 34th Infantry Division are getting shortchanged on their education benefits.

The 1,162 affected troops served just as long as their colleagues -- 22 consecutive months, the longest of any U.S. unit in Iraq -- but they are not eligible to enroll in the Chapter 30 Montgomery GI Bill because they were demobilized before serving the 730 days of active duty deployment required by the bill.

How long before? From one to 12 days...

Geren told the senators he was recommending that the Army Board of Corrections, which has the authority to award the benefits, expedite the review process so the soldiers could get their benefits in time to enroll for spring semester. Usually, each soldier would each have to file a personal appeal, but Geren requested the Army review them as one group.

Those who qualify for Chapter 30 Montgomery GI Benefits can receive $894 per month to be used for education, after making a $1,200 down payment. The benefits are available up to 10 years after the soldiers leave the service.

Read the rest at the Star Tribune