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Screwing Private Ryan
by James Dunnigan
May 16, 2008

Discussion Board on this DLS topic

Once again, the U.S. Army shot itself in the foot by doing the right thing, then screwing it up. In this case, a soldier, one of three brothers, was released early from his enlistment because of the 60 year old "sole survivor" rule. This regulation allows for the sole survivor of a group of siblings to be released from service. In this case Specialist Jason Hubbard had two other brothers killed (one by a roadside bomb, the other in a helicopter crash), and he decided to take advantage of the sole survivor rule. But another rule, introduced after the sole survivor rule, prohibited soldiers who got out before their enlistment was up, from receiving veterans health and education benefits. Last year, the army was embarrassed to find they were doing the same thing to troops who were discharged early because of severe wounds that prevented further service. No one bothered to check if any other conditions would trigger such an unpleasant situation.

Congress is now changing the rules to preserve the benefits of wounded and sole survivor troops who get out before their enlistment contract has been completed. The new law will be retroactive to September 11, 2001. The movie "Saving Private Ryan" was all about getting a sole surviving son out of the combat zone. But during the subsequent 64 years, a new set of laws were passed to cover military service and benefits, creating a situation where private Ryan might think twice about getting saved.

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