The Washington Post recently turned to Attorney Debra D'Agostino for her insight into
a pay scandal that is currently haunting the Pentagon's bomb squad.
After an alleged clerical error was discovered last year, the Defense
Department claims that they overpaid the squad for years—and started
demanding the money back.
Washington Post describes, the Defense Department claims that the squad had been accidentally
been paid an extra 25% for hazard pay, a status the agency now asserts
the squad actually doesn't qualify for. Additionally, the squad's
pay will be cut by that same 25% going forward. In some cases, the demand
for recouped salary amounts to six figures per squad member, contributing
to strained morale on the squad and, in one tragic case, a squad member suicide.
Attorney D'Agostino previously represented the squad, notes that their
dilemma is two-fold: fighting the Pentagon's attempt to recoup the
money and also fighting to have their old salary rate reinstated. "There’s
the issue going backward and the issue of their pay rate going forward,
and I think the issue going forward is tougher for them to address,"
she told the paper. "This is one of those things with the government
where anyone would ask, 'What is the government doing?' and 'Why
isn’t the government fixing this mess it created?'"
She believes that Pentagon Police should first petition to have the bomb-squad
receive a supplemental incentive pay to replace the now-missing hazard
pay. That would allow the squad to continue to work at a rate similar
to when they had hazard pay status.
Both a Pentagon spokesman and the Pentagon Force Protection Agency have
said that the agency is taking the matter seriously and "working
to have this debt waived for all affected employees as quickly as possible."
There has been no mention of restoring hazard pay (or any kind of incentive
pay) to the squad's current salaries.
To read more about this case and Attorney D'Agostino's insight
into the matter, read The Washington Post's "In Pentagon bomb
squad, an investigation and a fight to stave off financial ruin"