Pass Me Some Cheese, Then I'll Bend Over

I hate whining, but damn, I'm gonna....

This is a lesson on when a contract is not a contract; or at least when a contract means "ok, not really, not on our end, but you still have to hold up your end." This is a lesson in Government Bullshit 101. Take notes; there will be a quiz.

Prior to last September there were several (read: way too many) critical medical military members eligible to either get out of the service or retire. Many of them were planning on getting out and heading to greener (read: civilian pay at 2-5 times military pay and the end of the military merry go round) pastures. Then 9/11 happened, and out of necessity the military was placed on Stop Loss - meaning no one could get out, not even those who had their paperwork to retire in order. There were few complaints; consider the circumstances. No one knew how bad things would get, and the military needed those positions staffed.

People made some serious personal sacrifices when ordered to stay in the service; some lost very high paying jobs in the civilian sector, some wound up being moved from the area where they intended to retire to fill positions in some really ratty places. Some wound up sitting on mountains in Afghanistan or playing in Saudi Arabian sand. Some wound up places they weren't allowed to tell even their closest family members. Those not deployed often had to work extra hours to fill in for those who were playing in the sand or on a mountain, hours on top of weeks that often tipped over 50-60 hours.

When Stop Loss was lifted, the military risked losing tons of critical medical people. General surgeons, neurosurgeons, anesthestists, dentists; a mass exodus was possible. In order to entice military members eligible to leave, retention bonuses were waved in front of them. They weren't huge bonuses, but enough to make people sit back and think "Hmmm... this might make staying in for one more year worth it."

So they were told they would get the bonus if they signed on the dotted line. Many did; they committed themselves to another year of service in exchange for a retention bonus. It was to be paid before the end of the 2002 Fiscal Year, which ended on Monday, September 30.

Monday came and went, and no one got paid.

Tuesday - the start of the new fiscal year - came and went, and no one got paid. Same thing with Wednesday. But on Thursday, word came down.

The bonus is not being paid.

Some Congressman in California, don't yet know who, heard about the legislation enacted to give all these people a one time, keep-em-in-the-service bonus, and enacted some kind of legislation that effectively stopped payment on the money. Don't know why yet, either. Chances are he or she wanted that money for a pet project. Whatever the reason, there are several (many) military members who agreed to stay in exchange for the cash.

Selfish and crass? It doesn't matter. What matters is that there was a contract, and the government is not going to uphold their end of the deal. All because of one Congressman.

Can these people get out? Ideally the contract is null and void. But they're not getting out. Nope. They're being held to it until "the issue is resolved." When will that be? Who knows?

We know this much - Stop Loss is rumored to be on the way again. Once in effect, they're stuck. All those people who served their country and could have gotten out but stayed because of a promise unfilled will be stuck, and in risk of being back in the line of fire.

If a private company did this, all hell would break loose.

But hey, this is the military. Not real people, after all, just the guys who work 12-16 hour days to be a part of the peace process. Who cares if the government screws them to keep them in?

Evidently a Congressman in California doesn't.

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