There’s an area of contract law that deals with voiding out contracts based on a mistake. Without going into too much detail, because I’m not trying to write a fucking hornbook on the subject, there are two types of mistakes: Unilateral Mistakes (one guy was a dumbass) and Mutual Mistakes (both guys were dumbasses). You can’t get a contract thrown out because you alone were a dumbass, you can get one thrown out because everybody was a dumbass.
This does not apply to the Pentagon, whose dumbassery is legendary and undeniable. The dumbassery of the Pentagon, it seems, is so enormous, so monumental, and so expected that it apparently is the legal duty of those under its command to expect them to fuck things up. Hence the reason that men and women who entered into contracts with it and gave due consideration in the form of years of their lives, their sanity, and their youth are being told those contracts are worth less than toilet paper.
Of course, the people telling them that are the same dipshits that spend thousands of dollars on a roll of Charmin, so at least there’s that.
If you didn’t read the link, here’s the quick and dirty: back in 2002-fucking now, we were at war. War, as Sherman said, is hell. So they needed to incentivize people who otherwise wouldn’t go to a godforsaken hellhole repeatedly to get shot at to believe doing so was a good idea. Since we have a volunteer military, the Pentagon decided to pay bonuses to National Guardsmen, who abso-fucking-lutely had other shit to do (such as their day jobs and their families that they were leaving behind), in order to get them to re-enlist. Keep in mind, kiddos, they were re-enlisting to go to a giant sandbox where people wanted to kill them.
To put this in personal perspective, I won’t even go outside when the temperature goes over ninety because I’m uncomfortable, I hate sand getting in my shorts at the beach, and the only types of shots I want people taking at me are filled with whiskey. These motherfuckers weren’t re-enlisting to drink Blanton’s and get a suntan, they were doing it to go get shot at so fat SOB’s like me could sit in air conditioned houses, avoid the beach, and get drunk. And they were gonna get paid to do so. That was the deal.
The key word here is “was.” See, it seems some of these folks weren’t supposed to get those bonuses. According the the Pentagon, a combination of military fuck-up and unscrupulous recruiters offered these bonuses to soldiers that weren’t qualified to receive them in order to entice those self-same soldiers into re-enlisting. As a result of this, the Pentagon is now demanding those soldiers pay back those bonuses, and has been garnishing wages to accomplish this.
I really wish this was the first time our government has treated a promise to pay a bonus to our veterans and soldiers as an optional thing. But, goddammit, we just can’t seem to find it in our bureaucratic hearts to stop dicking with veterans.
But hey, considering that we had only been a country for two years before the first time we fucked around with a veteran’s promised compensation, we could argue that fucking over soldiers is really just as American as apple pie and mass tort litigation.
The sad thing is, were these people not soldiers there would be a hell of a contract argument against the Pentagon’s proposed action. See, a mutual mistake generally requires that the parties be mistaken as to some material fact regarding why they entered into the agreement. Here, this didn’t happen. The soldiers knew they were re-enlisting in a large part because of the bonus. The military was mistaken as to the eligibility of those soldiers. That’s a unilateral mistake, not a mutual mistake.
And even if it was a mutual mistake, what other organization could offer you something in return for your service, have you accept it, have you actually perform the service, then demand the payment back? Have some fun with this. Next time you get gas, afterwards tell the clerk that you meant to steal it after you’ve paid and demand your money back. When you’re done getting the shit beat out of you by some guy named Bubba who works at the Texaco, give me a call, because, unlike the Pentagon and those fraudulent recruiters, Texaco is definitely vicariously liable to you for the damages caused by Bubba’s actions.
Look, I understand the budget’s fucked up and the military is coming off of a period of intense spending cutbacks caused by the ramping down of our military operations. However, could we not go to the person who watched their friends die and ask for that bonus back? Can we not treat them like judgment debtors or dads named Karl who “forget” they have a child support obligation? How about we suck it up, buy a couple less tactical toilet seats, and let these guys keep those bonuses?
I know, this is supposed to be a legal blog first and foremost, and my last two posts have been political bitchfests, but for fuck’s sake. I’m a cynical asshole these days, but there’s still a part of me that cries out for justice for those that suffer because of the incompetence and ill will of others. This shit is wrong, and these guys are being fucked, and someone has to say it loudly and clearly: If anyone but the United States military was pulling this shit on people who had held up their end of the bargain, they’d be on the shitty end of a judge’s tongue-lashing. It isn’t any less wrong because the assholes doing it are wearing stars on their shoulders, and it doesn’t make the striped-pants wearing, soundbite spouting beancounters any less of a group of shitbirds just because they work for the government. These soldiers are getting fucked, and it ain’t right.
Cause, let’s be really clear here, there was no way you could have paid my fat legal ass to do the work they did. I think these guys have earned it.