Soldier Claims MO National Guard Lagging In Bonus Payments

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COLUMBIA - One Missouri National Guard soldier claims his bonus payment for re-enlistment is late by almost 3 months--and the guard confirms he is not the only one with the problem.

SFC Duane Roberts has served in the Missouri National Guard for a total of 14 years and returned home from his latest tour of duty in May.

While deployed in Afghanistan, Roberts signed a six-year contract which came with a lump sum bonus of $10,000. Roberts' bonus was scheduled to be dispersed on August 30, 2012, but he said he still has not received the payment.

"This has tied me up a little bit. It's put a squeeze on us, which is an issue for a lot of soldiers," said Roberts, who had not received the money as of Thursday.

Roberts said he has been in contact with three other soldiers who are in similar situations in regards to receiving bonuses.

According to Lt. John Quin, public affairs officer for the Missouri National Guard, individual units approve bonus payments for soldiers. Orders for payment then go to the education and incentives office at state headquarters, which verifies the soldier's eligibility. The information is then sent to the National Guard professional education center in Arkansas for further review. If no issues are found, it is sent to National Guard bureau, which approves for final payment.

Roberts said that the delay has been blamed on switching to a new database, which the National Guard uses to process bonuses because of past fraud, specifically in the California National Guard  where soldiers were being paid bonuses for which they were not eligible. 

"I don't know if it's a National Guard bureau issue or if it's just in the state," said Roberts, who is originally from the Columbia area, but currently lives in Tuscon.

Roberts said he spoke with an administrative clerk at a National Guard unit in Tuscon, who said that office has had similar issues.

Roberts said he has been working with the Missouri Inspector General's office to correct the issue, but all to no avail.

Roberts said the initial delay was cited as an "error code" in the system.

"They said 'It's not your fault, but it's going to take a few weeks to be resubmitted for processing and payment,'" said Roberts.

"The state needs to be more aggressive in trying to fix the issue. It's a matter of morale," said Roberts.

"I can go to a drill this weekend, do a Saturday or Sunday and by Monday or Tuesday, I'm already showing an LES (Leave and Earnings Statement). So if they can get soilders paid for doing drills, the issue with bonuses is puzzling to me," said Roberts.

The Missouri National Guard said it does not comment on specific soldiers' files.

"The Missouri National Guard has had a small number of soldiers call with delayed bonus payment issues. Each of these instances are being worked through the validation system for bonus payment," said Maj. Tammy Spicer, a public affairs officer with the Missouri National Guard.

Roberts has not been given a set date when his bonus will be disbursed.

"They told me best case scenario, a month," Roberts said.