Entitlements Fraud or DFAS Error
If you have been in the Army for more that few years, you know that the Defense Finance and Accounting Services (DFAS) makes a lot of mistakes. Some of these mistakes are a result of conflicting advice to Soldiers by Finance officials. Other mistakes are simply input errors by DFAS. When mistakes happen, it usually results in either the Soldier not receiving entitlements that they should have or mistakenly receiving entitlements that they were not authorized. If it is the former, the Soldier usually spends months trying to correct the error and no one blames DFAS. If it is the later, DFAS and CID are quick to fault the Soldier for entitlements fraud. Such an action, unfortunately typically results in a “guilty until proven innocent” mentality by the command, CID, and DFAS.
In a recent article by Major Ryan Little, he explores what happens to Soldiers when mistakes are made, and the need to relook what should happen in entitlements fraud cases. Here is the abstract for his article:
For the men and women of our military, errors in their paychecks are just like rubbery eggs in the chow hall or a downpour during a field exercise ― they are all just a normal part of wearing the uniform. Archaic computer systems and labyrinthine regulations cause servicemembers to be overpaid or underpaid with alarming frequency. However, ambiguities in the Uniform Code of Military Justice’s (UCMJ) larceny statute mean that military lawyers often misapply the mens rea element in the narrow but common subset of cases where a servicemember is overpaid but did nothing to cause the overpayment. Too many servicemembers face the threat of prosecution for overpayments even though they have clean hands.
This Article proposes revisions to the Manual for Courts-Martial to provide clearer guidance to commanders and military lawyers regarding mens rea in pay and benefits overpayment cases. With the current sense of urgency among lawmakers who are considering changes to the military justice system, the timing is right to correct this lingering source of confusion and bring uniformity to how overpayments are prosecuted across the force
The article by Major Little is entitled “Clean Hands and Strict Liability: Clarifying the Mens Rea Standard When Prosecuting Servicemembers for Errors in Military Pay.” You can access the article by clicking on the article title.