Bowe Bergdahl will not be going to jail after he walked off base while in Afghanistan, and he may now also be entitled to hundreds of thousands of dollars in back pay.
He was given a dishonorable discharge and demoted from sergeant to private earlier this month in a court decision that President Trump called a “complete and total disgrace.” The 31 year-old was sentenced after pleading guilty in October to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy, walking off base while in Afghanistan in 2009 and being captured by the Taliban.
The U.S. Army now has to decide whether Bergdahl will be getting the back pay and other benefits he accumulated during the five years he was in Taliban captivity in Afghanistan before being returned home in 2014, according to the Army Times.
He became eligible for the extra pay available to captive troops once he was captured and that, coupled with basic and deployment pay, could amount to more than $300,000.
But his guilty plea of desertion may alter the Army’s consideration of Bergdahl as a prisoner of war.
“My understanding is there has to be an administrative determination of his duty status at each point, from the time he was captured until now,” an army official told the Army Times. “In order to figure out what he’s owed, you’re basically going to have to start from that point of captivity.”
According to Army Times:
The Defense Department marked Bergdahl as “Duty Status-Whereabouts Unknown” on June 30, 2009, Military.com reported in 2014. Three days later, he was switched to “Missing-Captured,” when a Taliban propaganda video showed him alive and detained.
The Army will use that timeline to determine his pay. Ordinarily, the official said, a soldier who has been marked missing or captured would be entitled to back pay upon return.
But Bergdahl, who has been assigned to a desk job since his return and drawing commensurate pay, may not be considered a prisoner of war after pleading guilty to desertion.
Bergdahl may end up with only his accumulated basic pay during his five-year captivity or could even end up owing money to the military, the official said.
“Based upon the results of trial, the Army is reviewing Sgt. Bergdahl’s pay and allowances,” Lt. Col. Randy Taylor told the Times. “His final pay and allowances will be determined in accordance with DoD policy and Army regulation.”
Bergdahl’s attorney declined to comment to the Times about the back pay issue.
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