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House Armed Services Committee Ignores Whistleblowers – Refuses to Stop the Mistreatment of Injured U.S. Service Members

Image: Wikimedia Commons (Public domain photograph from defenseimagery.mil)

As the Department of Defense continues to ignore the plight of many service members injured in the line of duty, the House Armed Services Committee shamefully ignores repeated calls for accountability and compliance with federal law.

The Gateway Pundit spoke to Major (ret.) Jeremy “Weed” Sorenson, a former F-16 and A-10 fighter pilot who was deployed to combat on multiple occasions throughout his career. Today, Sorenson serves as Director of Guard and Reserve Affairs for Uniformed Services Justice & Advocacy Group (USJAG).

He shared that a whistleblower complaint was received on January 31, 2023, by the House of Representatives Committee on Government Oversight and Accountability regarding “widespread, systemic mistreatment of injured U.S. military Service Members.” Extensive information and evidence of widespread misconduct was provided to the author.

After reviewing the documentation, it was confirmed that the complaint identified specific widespread violations of law and regulations against service members, primarily the intentional denial of military pay, medical care, and disability benefits for service members who are injured in the line of duty (LOD).

Allegations included the following:

  1. Denial of due process throughout the LOD determination process
  2. Unlawful Not in the Line of Duty determinations, contrary to evidence
  3. Unlawful termination of medical care, pay, benefits following injury, illness, and disease
  4. Unfair Disability Evaluation System (DES) processing
  5. Unlawful denial of military disability benefits

Additionally, allegations were made that a key National Guard Bureau (NGB) official involved in unlawfully denying benefits, was simultaneously serving on active duty while also employed as a Department of Defense (DOD) contractor.

Sorenson said the Oversight Committee did not address the complaint but referred it to the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) in April 2023. “On April 24, 2023,” he said, “[A HASC staffer] reached out to the whistleblower for information, and the whistleblower learned that the Oversight Committee had failed to forward any information on the complaint to the HASC.”

After the whistleblower provided HASC “extensive information on the widespread misconduct and unlawful activity within the DOD,” Sorenson pointed out, “five more whistleblowers also came forward and provided extensive personal information and compounding evidence to HASC.”

Six months later, he noted the whistleblowers had not been called by any HASC official or staffer. “They never even spoke with the five whistleblowers,” he added. During this time, the Chairman of the HASC Subcommittee on Military Personnel, Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN) was also contacted multiple times, but the calls for help were ignored.

On December 1, 2023, Sorenson said, HASC staff informed three of the whistleblowers that the matters were “outside of our jurisdiction” and closed their complaints despite HASC leadership being provided specific details and evidence of alleged misconduct.

Due to the lack of attention by the staffers, HASC and Senate Committee on Armed Services (SASC) chairmen and ranking members were contacted by USJAG on December 1, 2023. One week later, USJAG received a response from a HASC research assistant. She said, “The Committee…will consider the individual cases closed.”

Another HASC staffer then followed up to state: “I wanted to foot stomp some of the points…Specifically, that we reviewed and analyzed each individual case that was brought before us, found that there was no systemic link between the cases, and therefore was not in HASC jurisdictions…”

For the USJAG Director of Guard and Reserve Affairs, White’s tone was clear. “HASC didn’t care and blatantly refused to address the matter any further,” he explained.

And according to Sorenson, “It was clear the HASC had not thoroughly investigated the matter, but had instead just provided the ultimate congressional cover-up for the DOD’s misconduct.” Interestingly, he disclosed that “at the same time HASC was finalizing their cover-up, the Inspector General (IG) of the U.S. Air Force, Lt. Gen. Stephen Davis, directed SAF/IGS (the senior investigative element in the USAF) to conduct a major inquiry into the numerous allegations of systemic misconduct.”

“More than a dozen whistleblowers came forward, and the IG inquiry now has the direct attention of the senior leadership of the USAF and DOD,” Sorenson said, adding that “except for Lt. Gen Davis, however, the senior leadership of the U.S. Air Force and National Guard have refused to respond to any communications from individual service members and advocates. “It is clear the Air Force and National Guard leadership’s only goal is to cover up the egregious, systemic misconduct within their ranks,” according to Sorenson.

Six months after the HASC closed all of the complaints, on May 5, 2024, HASC staffers sent additional closure letters to five of the six original whistleblowers, tacitly admitting they had previously provided false information about thoroughly investigating and finding “no systemic link between the cases.” Interestingly, they are now stating, “We are actively seeking, through legislative means, a way to increase transparency and efficiency surrounding this area.”

“Unfortunately, it appears that NGB and DOD leadership had misled HASC, and as a result, HASC ignored the matter,” according to Sorenson. “But HASC should and does know better,” he argued. “Just like the DOD IG, it appears HASC is just another fox watching the henhouse, an organization that selectively disregards their oversight responsibilities.”

In response to an inquiry from the author, a HASC spokesperson said:

The House Armed Services Committee worked closely with individuals who sought help from the Committee with challenges they were experiencing with the National Guard. While assisting these individuals, the Committee identified extreme delays in military records processing. As the Committee looked closer at the issue, the Committee found that the office within the National Guard Bureau that handles FOIA requests is understaffed, resulting in extended wait times to fulfill FOIA requests. To address the issues the committee found and restore public confidence in the National Guard Bureau’s FOIA process, the FY25 NDAA will require the Comptroller General of the United States to conduct a study on the staffing needs of the National Guard Bureau to administer its responsibilities related to FOIA requests so that Congress can address these issues in the near future. In addition, the committee staff informed impacted individuals of their options to appeal, as well as encouraged them to engage with their congressional representatives.

To that, Sorenson argued that the HASC response is “a bold face lie and simply more deflection away from the actual complaints brought forward.” He noted, “The HASC didn’t even speak to the whistleblowers, let alone work closely with them.” For this reason, he said, “This misleading response addresses FOIA, not the actual complaints of mistreated injured service members and the rampant violations of law.” He called it “disgusting, but not surprising.”

For Nic Gray, USJAG CEO and Army veteran, “This is all another example of politicians doing just enough to make it look like they care about a problem.” According to him, “It’s a stall tactic, buying them time and finding a way to bury the problem rather than addressing and solving it.” He considers HASC and SASC to be “compromised,” explaining, “they don’t want to bite the hand that feeds them, aka defense contractors.” He proposed, “Follow the money and you’ll find the motive.”

USJAG continues to represent many injured service members, like Army Master Sergeant James Buckley, for example, who was abandoned by the Air Force after being injured in the line of duty.

 

 

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