TF Marne Soldiers Still Await Reimbursement for hurricane Irma evac – Part II

Sí, I’m still José. As I left off earlier today, Hurricane Irma created some epic challenges for the dependents initially, but their woes fail considerably for what the “Marne Devils” have to endure.

A lot of the division turned their vouchers in before the end of September. Others were told to wait because of the backlog at division and got overrun with events, whether be it NTC or deployment in other instances. Soldiers are also getting conflicting and confusing information like “The window is closed now, you missed it” or “We’ll just do it when you get back”, others are screwed because the Army moved them (more on that later)…but isn’t DTS part of the out-processing checklist????

In response to a USAWTFM PAO inquiry, 3ID estimates that over 9,000 Soldiers have filed authorizations with 30-40% being returned for one reason or another. One of those reasons being if you lived in a town that was outside of the State of Georgia’s mandatory evacuation zone but you have a military order to evacuate.

Have fun with those cases 3ID legal. A source not authorized to publicly speak informed me there are over 2,000 Marne Soldiers who have still not been paid, mostly because their voucher is sitting at division in a ‘review status’. One might ask yourself “How is that possible? There are all kinds of civilian and green suiters that work up there and it’s online.”

Well I discovered that indeed soldiers did file the vouchers digitally but when it arrived at division everything came to a screeching halt. While 3ID does have many budget analysts that could review and approve the vouchers, that power was stripped away from them. A

Ms. Polly Williams, the 30 year budget analyst Director issued a directive that every voucher had to be personally reviewed by her before she would allow the other analyst to sign off of them. That’s right, you have one person that has to review and approve EVERY 3ID/HAAF hurricane induced vouchers before they can go to DFAS. To further compound this train wreck further, she HAD to review a PAPER COPY, not the online version, you know in case they get audited.

OK, while I understand about wanting to make sure you have everything in the event you are audited, but you choose to do it WHILE you’re trying to process. Having the other analysts would have to print off on average 7 pages for each voucher based on the requirements put out by the division…so carry the 1 and you’re looking at over 200,000 pages being printed off at a minimum so you could look at the analog version because you didn’t want to allow your subordinates to do something they were legally capable of doing. OH, and 3ID confirmed that division is reviewing the paper copies ALPHABETICALLY!

Things got so overwhelming that the brigades were tasked to provide a DTS clerk to come up and print off DTS orders for her. This means that units were losing that capability at their unit because this civilian is giving directives to subordinate units.

Because of this “paper first, only me command” by a civilian, soldiers are getting screwed both financially and professionally. Financially because they are having to pay off their GTC card with their own money because Citibank has put them into delinquent status. TF Marne has since set up a weekly meeting chaired by the Chief of Staff to monitor the process.

3ID has also created “Mission Critical Lists” to prevent soldiers from accruing interest on their government travel card. That’s code for we’re starting at the letter Z and going backwards and some soldiers have already had their card suspended. But what about every soldier that has PCS’d and is now being screwed over professionally? How you might ask? Because every soldier that PCS’d is still under 3ID’s hierarchy until this voucher process is settled. This means that they can’t go to schools, can’t go to NTC which means they aren’t deployable and now they look like shit to their new units.

3ID states that as of today, 34,000 were told to evacuate, 3,910 dependents filed vouchers, 9,000 soldiers filed authorizations, 5,700 made it to division, 2,379 were paid, 1054 were sent back for corrections and 2,267 are still being reviewed at division.

But Hurricane Irma didn’t create this problem, it only provided the mechanism that exposed the practice that was in place….so I dug and the results border on fantastical. It seems that Ms Williams’ style of “Directing” has been in place for a while and has had the same effect on soldiers.

I could write for days on what was sent in, but I’ll keep it to a few that are in the brutal category. Because G3 only has two people who work on funding memos, they usually do a unit a day (Monday-Hunter, Tuesday-2BDE, ect) so a lot of times soldiers don’t get the memo because of the system. But in this example a group of soldiers went to ALC last summer without the G3 funding memo (because it wasn’t ready) and since their orders didn’t have the funding, Ms. Williams wouldn’t pay them. Since then, G3 provided the funding memos, but still she refused and told a member from the unit that she wouldn’t. When the XO for the brigade confronted her about it, she said she’d approve them and he left. They are still waiting to be approved.

Our second example is about a soldier that took his POV during a TDY.

The command approved using the POV because it was cheaper than what the plane ticket and rental would have been. A memo went up to the CG stating that it was more cost effective to let the soldier take the vehicle than choose the option provided by DTS. The CG agreed and approved the request.

Well, when the soldier gets back and submits his voucher, Ms. Williams decides she doesn’t agree with it and changes the amount owed the soldier. Disregarding the screenshots of the plane ticket prices, she created her own cost of the flight and screwed the amount of mileage due to the soldier…..even though it was authorized by the CG.

My last example is a SHARP Rep that went TDY (overall cost was under $1K) that 3ID SHARP was supposed to pay for. But since division SHARP only had enough money (no will ever really know how much money they were supposed to have) to send one person to school. So the brigade leadership was queried to see if the brigade would cover the costs, which they approved. When the soldier returned he submitted a voucher and was subsequently turned down by Ms. Williams because she stated that the division only had enough money to send one person. When provided the brigade memo authorizing funds for the training, Ms. Williams stood her ground and didn’t budge stating that brigade’s weren’t authorized to pay for SHARP training. The irony is the previous week, she allowed a brigade to pay for another SHARP’s rental car. After the third voucher rejection, Ms. Williams went into DTS and abruptly cancelled the DTS orders. Which the brigade recreated and are currently sitting with Ms. Williams along with a lot of other cases.

There are so many things wrong here that need to be fixed, it’s almost like you’re reading a documentary on the economic downfall of the Marne Division. It is worthy to note that TF Marne has taken notice and has begun to engage soldiers to help them through this and how they can improve. Unfortunately, this isn’t some hurricane issue TF Marne has to work to improve, this micromanagement, lack of caring and potentially illegal activity has gone on for years unadulterated. Will TF Marne really listen to and investigate soldier’s claim of Ms. Williams’ actions? I’d say 18th Airborne Corps needs to jump in and do a little audit, but I think this is beyond even them. This smells like something that needs to be addressed either by Big Army IG or even Lord Mattis’ IG department.

This is José reporting live from Fort Stewart, home of SGT Rocky for USAWTFM!