Reaching the last chance for ABMCR to "do the right thing"-BAH lawsuit update

Posted by Patrick J. Hughes | Aug 25, 2021

Over three years ago Patriots Law Group filed a lawsuit on behalf of seven Army Reserve servicemembers proposing a class-action against the Department of the Army for the improper denial of financial entitlements, imposition of wage garnishments, and unwarranted disciplinary actions, and finally we are reaching a major milestone in the long and frustrating fight for these Soldiers and their families. This Friday, August 27, 2021, a final determination by the Army Board for Corrections of Military Records (ABCMR) will be made. This decision is critical for the estimated thousands of Army Reserve Soldiers since at least 2016 who may have been unjustly barred from financial entitlements and subjected to undue discipline.

As we have alleged, the action of the Army all stemmed from a sudden, retroactive change in the service's interpretation of the controlling authority, essentially ignoring an entire section specifically carved out for Reservists in the Joint Travel Regulation (JTR) in effect at the relevant time (see JTR, Ch. 10, Part E, Section 13 (2016 ed.). This created the untenable situation where those who were offered housing on-base at no cost to them would also receive an entitlement to cover the costs of maintaining their stateside homes, but for those who were told they had to live off-base because no on-base housing was available for them, they received only one entitlement to cover the costs of maintaining two separate households.  This new interpretation ignored precedent and Congressional intent and was even callously used to justify overreaching, retroactive disciplinary actions against servicemembers who were all honorably serving the United States of America. In the extreme, it even forced a retiring Colonel to face criminal allegations and a recoupment exceeding $100K on the day of his retirement ceremony. His case was just one among numerous others experiencing similar actions and their long term effects, including the denial of officer promotions and civilian job offers being rescinded. 

From the start the Army and Department of Justice vigorously defended against any wrongdoing, filing a motion to have the lawsuit dismissed on legal grounds, however in 2019, the Court ruled in favor of the servicemembers. The Court gave the Army, through its highest level of administrative review—the ABCMR—one final opportunity to “do the right thing,” as then Army Secretary Dr. Mark Esper said they would in 2018.  In 2020, although the Army acknowledged its actions created an unwarranted financial hardship to Reserve soldiers over “several years” and required a change, the prospective change ignored all those previously impacted, and no corrective action was ever taken to rectify the damages to these servicemembers.  This Friday's ruling is their opportunity to remedy this material error and injustice.

On August 10th, 2021, one of Patriots Law Group's co-founders, Patrick Hughes, was granted a very rare personal appearance before the ABCMR, which generally decides each case on the written submissions.  From this appearance, the ABCMR is expected to issue its decision and determine the course of the pending litigation with the Court of Federal Claims.

Patriots Law Group is hopeful the ABCMR will heed the words of Secretary Esper and “do the right thing,” but we are prepared to continue the fight if it does not. Following the ABCMR's decision, Patriots Law Group intends to fight for a comprehensive review of all impacted servicemembers so each can be fully compensated for any wrongfully withheld or recouped BAH entitlements, and any adverse discipline can be rectified.  Please share this post and follow us on Facebook or Linkedin to spread the word and receive up-to-date information about our case and how Soldiers may be able to join the lawsuit.

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About the Author

Patrick J. Hughes

“The only way to truly advocate for your clients is to know and understand them and their issue. Being a part of the same family, I can think of no better community of people I would rather represent than current and former DoD members and their families.” – Patrick J. Hughes