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Should Bergdahl Receive $300K In Back Pay?

bowe b

By Debbie Gregory.

The U.S. Army may end up paying Pvt. Bowe Bergdahl about $300,000 in back pay for the five years he was  a prisoner of the Taliban.

Bergdahl was initially listed as “Duty Status Whereabouts Unknown” by the Defense Department on June 30, 2009. However, his status was changed three days later to “Missing-Captured” following the release of a Taliban video showing Bergdahl alive. Bergdahl had walked off of his base, and was released in a prisoner swap in May of 2014.

He was charged and pleaded guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy resulting in a demotion from sergeant to private, a fine, and a dishonorable discharge.

Now, the Army is trying to figure out what, if anything, they owe Bergdahl.

Typically, servicemembers designated by the Defense Department as “captive, missing or missing in action” are entitled to receive back pay and allowances. Any additional pay and allowances earned such as promotions or special entitlements are not issued until they are officially recovered or classified as deceased. But this situation is unique because Bergdahl pleaded guilty to desertion.

In a Nov. 15 letter to Acting Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy, 100 lawmakers, led by former soldier Rep. Rick Crawford (R-AK) said that, while they are happy Bergdahl was returned, they remain concerned about the circumstances surrounding his disappearance and are urging the U.S. Army not to award Bowe Bergdahl any back pay.

“At the very least, we know Private Bergdahl’s actions, by his desertion admissions in court, jeopardized the lives of his comrades,” they wrote. “Despite being given a dishonorable discharge and demotion from sergeant to private, he remains eligible for significant back pay.”

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Military Connection: Bergdahl Charged with Desertion

Bergdahl

By Debbie Gregory.

On March 25, 2015 it was announced that Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl would be charged for his role in his capture by the Taliban.

Bowe Bergdahl was reported missing from his unit in the Paktika Province of Afghanistan on June 30, 2009. He was captured by the Taliban and held for five years by the Haqqani Network, a militia group loyal to the Taliban. His highly publicized release on May 31, 2014, was secured by exchanging Bergdahl’s freedom for five Taliban detainees from Guantanamo Bay, known to be top Taliban players before their capture.

During the entirety of his capture, the circumstances of Bergdahl’s disappearance from his post were fiercely debated within the military community and throughout the mainstream media. But testimony from other soldiers in his unit, as well as his own words found in correspondence to his family, indicated that Bergdahl deserted his post.

Shortly after Bergdahl’s release, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army General Martin Dempsey said this about Bergdahl’s future: “The U.S. Army will not ignore any misconduct by released Taliban detainee Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, but he should be considered innocent until proven guilty.” He went on to say, “Our Army’s leaders will not look away from misconduct if it occurred. In the meantime, we will continue to care for him and his family.”

On June 16, 2014, the Army began conducting an investigation into Bergdahl’s disappearance. In December, 2014, the Army referred Bergdahl’s case to General Mark Milley, Commander of U.S. Army Forces Command (FORSCOM).

General Milley had a variety of legal options to choose from in the case, including the option to drop any and all charges of misconduct against Sgt. Bergdahl. But with the findings of the investigation, which have not been made public, Gen. Milley saw fit to charge Bergdahl with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. If found guilty, Bergdahl could face a punishment of up to life in prison.

But it is widely speculated that due to his time spent in captivity, Bergdahl sentence would be little-to-no prison time, if he is found guilty. However, Bergdahl would forfeit any of his Veteran benefits and the back-pay that he would have been due for May 2009 through May 2014.

A general consensus around the military community is that Bergdahl’s actions put other service members’ lives at risk. This point is underlined in the fact that during the initial search for Bergdahl, six soldiers lost their lives. For that reason alone, many service members and Veterans want to see justice served.

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Military Connection: Bergdahl Charged with Desertion: By Debbie Gregory