Lawmakers help wounded soldier get home after dispute with Army
By DEVLIN BARRETT
Associated Press Writer
December 10, 2004, 4:23 PM EST
WASHINGTON -- Specialist Robert Loria of Middletown lost his arm in Iraq, but instead of a farewell paycheck from the U.S. Army he got a bill for nearly $1,800.
On Friday a platoon of New York lawmakers came to his rescue.
Loria found himself stuck in Fort Hood Texas this week when Army officials claimed he owed them money for travel expenses to a hospital and lost equipment.
Several lawmakers _ Rep. Maurice Hinchey and Senators Charles Schumer and Hillary Rodham Clinton _ interceded on behalf of the 27-year-old veteran after his irate wife, Christine Loria, told the Times-Herald Record of Middletown about the problem.
Loria was wounded in February. But as he was about to leave the Army this month, officials told him he had been overpaid for his time as a patient at a military hospital in the Washington area, and claimed he still owed money for travel between the hospital and Fort Hood, and $310 for items not found in his returned equipment.
Instead of a check for nearly $4,500, Loria was told he had to pay nearly $1,800.
"Christmas is coming up, and we are severely overdrawn because of this," Christine said angrily.
"It turned out his getting wounded wasn't the worst thing this year to happen _ this was," she said.
Clinton, Schumer, and Hinchey said Friday the Army has dropped the billing demands and will allow Loria to return home today or tomorrow on leave before he is discharged.
Clinton's office said late Friday that Army officials were now looking at cases of 19 other injured veterans who may have had payroll snafus similar to Loria.
"This man has already made such a sacrifice, and then they just put him through the wringer," said Schumer.
Clinton blamed the problem on someone in the bureaucracy being unwilling to help him with the paperwork that the Army insisted upon.
Hinchey charged the demands of the Iraq war have overstretched the military, which "sent people out to make sacrifices and then provided them with what essentially is personal abuse when they return home _ abuse and dishonor."
The Democratic lawmakers said Loria should be able to start heading home to New York in a day or two, but his wife said she wants to make absolutely sure those bills won't be reinstated at some point.
"I just want him out of there. I'm relieved that I know he's coming home but I know how powerful the military is and I'm just so very, very nervous until he is actually home," she said.
Copyright © 2004, The Associated Press