Hard as it is to believe, Donald Rumsfeld’s Pentagon is once more getting set to charge soldiers $8.10 every day for meals while they are in military hospitals recovering from combat injuries. Last year, after an uproar, Congress inserted a special provision into the $87.5 billion supplemental appropriation for Iraq and Afghanistan to make sure wounded soldiers didn’t have to pay for their meals while laid up. But because the Pentagon has been so inept at putting the special provision into practice, numerous wounded vets have been paying for their food anyway. And now the special provision covering the $8.10 fee is about to run out.
The Pentagon suggests that those who already have paid for their food may be able to get reimbursement if they have kept receipts for the meals. Figuring out who did isn’t as easy as the Pentagon might like it to sound. As of mid-month 2,830 patients from the Iraq war have been treated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, 500 of them battle casualties.
“It’s a pretty cumbersome process,” Lieutenant Colonel Carl Smith, deputy director of patient administration at Walter Reed, told Stars and Stripes. “We have to come up with a mechanism to identify soldiers [who were charged] and follow them through and find out where they are now.” And it involves different offices in the Pentagon having to collaborate with one another. Said Pentagon spokesman James Turner, “The policy will address servicemember- and former-servicemember-identification, validation that the hospitalization qualifies for exemption, and the reimbursement mechanism.”
Additional reporting: Ashley Glacel and Alicia Ng