U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., introduced legislation Wednesday that would prevent former Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from receiving back pay and special compensation.
Bergdahl was serving with an infantry regiment in Afghanistan in 2009 when he deserted his post and was later captured by the Taliban. He was held in captivity for about five years before former President Barack Obama was able to negotiate his release in exchange for five detainees then being held at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. It has been alleged that six soldiers were killed in the search for Bergdahl after he went missing.
In October, Bergdahl pleaded guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. He could have been sentenced to life in prison, but instead was dishonorably discharged with a reduction in rank.
“Bowe Bergdahl risked the lives and safety of countless troops by deserting his post in Afghanistan. Despite his actions and being dishonorably discharged, he will not face jail time. This was a mistake,” Pearce said.
Fox News reported Wednesday that 100 Republican congressmen have sent a letter to the Army requesting that Bergdahl not receive pay normally awarded to captive servicemen, which in Bergdahl’s case could be as much as $300,000.
“The Army’s suggestion that Bergahl may receive back pay and special compensation accumulated during his desertion would be another massive mistake by the Army,” Pearce said. “Under no circumstances should a man found guilty of desertion — who endangered military personnel for five years looking for him — be eligible to receive taxpayer dollars. For this reason, I’m proud to introduce this bill to ensure Bergdahl receives no special treatment or pay and ensure this is never even a question in the future.”
This legislation would amend the Uniform Code of Military Justice to prohibit unpaid compensation and benefits from being given to service members who are found guilty of desertion. Additionally, this bill directs the Secretary of Defense to give deserters’ back pay to the families of service members whose were killed, injured, or wounded while on search and rescue missions.
Attorneys for Bergdahl argued at his trial that he suffered from numerous mental illnesses, including schizotypal personality disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, at the time he abandoned his post. And, they noted his time spent under brutal conditions in Taliban captivity.
“As everyone knows, he was a captive of the Taliban for nearly five years, and three more years have elapsed while the legal process unfolded. He has lost nearly a decade of his life,” attorney Eugene Fidell told CNN.
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