The Washington Post recently turned to Attorney Debra D'Agostino for her insight into a pay scandal that is currently haunting the Pentagon's bomb squad. After an alleged clerical error was discovered last year, the Defense Department claims that they overpaid the squad for years—and started demanding the money back.
As The Washington Post describes, the Defense Department claims that the squad had been accidentally been paid an extra 25% for hazard pay, a status the agency now asserts the squad actually doesn't qualify for. Additionally, the squad's pay will be cut by that same 25% going forward. In some cases, the demand for recouped salary amounts to six figures per squad member, contributing to strained morale on the squad and, in one tragic case, a squad member suicide.
Attorney D'Agostino previously represented the squad, notes that their dilemma is two-fold: fighting the Pentagon's attempt to recoup the money and also fighting to have their old salary rate reinstated. "There’s the issue going backward and the issue of their pay rate going forward, and I think the issue going forward is tougher for them to address," she told the paper. "This is one of those things with the government where anyone would ask, 'What is the government doing?' and 'Why isn’t the government fixing this mess it created?'"
She believes that Pentagon Police should first petition to have the bomb-squad receive a supplemental incentive pay to replace the now-missing hazard pay. That would allow the squad to continue to work at a rate similar to when they had hazard pay status.
Both a Pentagon spokesman and the Pentagon Force Protection Agency have said that the agency is taking the matter seriously and "working to have this debt waived for all affected employees as quickly as possible." There has been no mention of restoring hazard pay (or any kind of incentive pay) to the squad's current salaries.
To read more about this case and Attorney D'Agostino's insight into the matter, read The Washington Post's "In Pentagon bomb squad, an investigation and a fight to stave off financial ruin" here.