The Knuckleheads of the Day award
Today's winners are Secretary of the Army, Pete Geren and Army Chief of Staff George W. Casey, Jr. They get the award for the following.
September 12, 2007 · Two years ago, Army Specialist Ronald Hinkle left a good trucking job, a working ranch, a wife and two daughters in Byers, Colo., to serve in Iraq.You have to read the whole article at NPR to fully understand how badly the Hinkle family is being screwed. This is disgraceful.
Now Hinkle is one of more than 13,000 American service men and women who have suffered serious wounds in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Hinkle survived an IED blast but festering wounds nearly killed him.
He and his family are struggling to rebuild lives completely transformed by that explosion in Iraq.
Hinkle was diagnosed with Traumatic Brain Injury, or TBI, as a result of the IED explosion. He suffers from sudden seizures. He tires quickly. He doesn't think clearly, and he cannot be left alone.
Hinkle was honored for his service in November when Vice President Dick Cheney pinned a Purple Heart to his desert fatigues, but his family feels otherwise deserted by the Army.
The U.S. Army failed to provide all the benefits and support for which the family is entitled. Now the Hinkles are tens of thousands of dollars in debt, and they may lose their ranch. Ron's wife, Reece, gave up her lucrative income as a corporate accountant to take care of him.
Some of the things that went wrong are beyond the Army's control, but some are not. Confusing advice put the Hinkles in the wrong military insurance plan, leaving them with $18,000 in family medical bills. Misinformation left them with $5,000 in unpaid travel expenses for Ron's medical care. Bureaucratic errors cost Ron half his military pay last month. And the Army failed to properly document Ron's war injury, costing the family $70,000 in special payments reserved for wounded soldiers.This treatment of a wounded soldier and his family should anger anyone. No one wants to take responsibility, the Secretary of the Army wouldn't comment. I'll hold people accountable for this tragedy in progress. We'll go to the top, Secretary of the Army Pete Geren and Army Chief of Staff George W. Casey, Jr. I make you today's Knuckleheads of the Day. Now pin that proudly to your uniform General Casey!
The Hinkles may never see most of this money. And that has them at the brink of financial ruin.
The Secretary of the Army and the senior command at Fort Carson declined to speak with NPR for this story. But they seem to be trying now to fix the mistakes. USACares and other groups have been raising money and providing other assistance.
But it all may be too late to keep the Hinkles from losing the life Ron fought to protect.
UPDATE: Since NPR spoke with Hinkle last month, his financial situation has become more precarious. He is now owed two paychecks from the Army. It's not clear when the checks will resume or whether he'll receive back pay. The family is missing close to $2,500 in back salary. In addition, last week Hinkle was notified by the finance department at Fort Carson that a $3,000 enlistment bonus will not be honored because "he failed to fulfill his contract" due to his injury in Iraq.
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