More than 1,000 Guard Troops Got the Wrong Pay on Border Mission

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National Guardsman stands guard along the Rio Grande
A National Guardsman stands guard at a fence that runs along the Rio Grande near the International bridge in Del Rio, Texas, Sept. 17, 2021. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

At least 1,376 troops in the Texas National Guard have faced pay issues since September, according to internal documents obtained by Military.com. 109 issues still remain for the roughly 6,800 Texas troops assigned to the mission.

The troops are part of the nearly year-old state mission ordered by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott that has seen reports of a wave of suicides and self harm on the mission, alcohol abuse, and troops facing severe financial hardship.

National Guard officials have responded to reporting about pay and discipline issues by describing coverage as being built on "nebulous charges."

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Col. Rita Holton, a Texas Guard spokesperson, told Military.com earlier in January that 82 soldiers were facing pay issues, while the document revealing pay issues that was reviewed by Military.com was dated Friday. The Texas National Guard did not respond to a request for comment ahead of this story's publication.

The pay issues range from soldiers being shortchanged, sometimes by thousands of dollars, to minor discrepancies. One Guardsman interviewed by Military.com received a $100 paycheck after two weeks of duty, a period when that Guardsman should have received a minimum of around $2,000. Meanwhile, some troops were overpaid, which can have a domino effect where pay is withheld unexpectedly from future checks.

Of the outstanding pay issues, 19 troops were overpaid and 90 are missing checks. It is unclear how far back the outstanding pay issues go.

Military.com had previously reported that there had been accounts of issues with pay, but the internal National Guard document obtained by the publication is the first to provide specifics on the number of soldiers affected.

While Texas has seemingly made progress on the pay issues, it is unclear why those issues existed to begin with, or why so many soldiers were impacted. Some senior officials interviewed point to troops swiftly being mobilized en masse, sometimes with days' notice.

For troops to deploy under state orders, they have to fill out entirely new W-4 forms, which makes them state employees. Because of that paperwork, Texas effectively hired a thousands-strong labor force with little notice or logistical support.

"I don't know what's going on; our state never had this problem. But imagine this, how in the world did Texas add thousands of employees to the payroll system?" one senior Guard official from another state told Military.com on the condition of anonymity to avoid retaliation. "The scale is not surprising, but it's also heartbreaking."

A key issue, current Texas Guardsmen who were interviewed by Military.com said, was many checks not being itemized. That means that when soldiers are paid it is unclear what days they have been paid for -- making it difficult to track whether they've received the correct amounts.

Some soldiers have faced financial hardship due to state orders earning them significantly less money than their civilian jobs. State orders also do not come with benefits, which are associated with active duty federal orders and typically pay soldiers less.

On Friday, Holton issued a statement that included criticism of media reports, including some from Military.com.

"There have been nebulous charges that service members are not being paid. This is inaccurate. While there have been administrative pay challenges, currently every service member assigned to Operation Lone Star is being paid," Holton said.

Yet, in the same statement, Holton noted that a lot of troops still have unresolved pay issues, many of which have been brewing for months.

"75 percent of pay discrepancies have been resolved, to include, back

pay for those who have been paid inaccurate amounts," Holton's statement added.

-- Steve Beynon can be reached at Steve.Beynon@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @StevenBeynon.

Related: Texas Denying Most Guard Troops at Border Chance to Help Families Suffering Hardships at Home

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