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The couple was desperate from "just not knowing where food's going to come from," he says.
And then you have to fight to get the money back." Aiken's injuries made that fight more difficult.
He limped from office to office to press his case to an unyielding bureaucracy. (and) they would treat him as if he was like a bad soldier," says Monica.
Aiken, then 30 years old, was in his second month of physical and psychological reconstruction at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, after two tours of combat duty had left him shattered.
It had started that October, when he received $2,337.56, instead of his normal monthly take-home pay of about $3,300. At the time, Aiken was living off base with his fiancee, Monica, and her toddler daughter, while sharing custody of his two children with his ex-wife.
With short-term and long-term memory loss, he struggled to keep appointments and remember key dates and events. "They weren't compassionate." They were also wrong.
The money the military took back from Aiken resulted from accounting and other errors, and it should have been his to keep.
It often fails at that task, a Reuters investigation finds.
A review of individuals' military pay records, government reports and other documents, along with interviews with dozens of current and former soldiers and other military personnel, confirms Aiken's case is hardly isolated. And as Aiken and many other soldiers have found, once mistakes are detected, getting them corrected - or just explained - can test even the most persistent soldiers (see related story).
For all its errors, Pentagon record-keeping is an expensive endeavor. 30, the Defense Department requested .3 billion to operate, maintain and modernize the more than 2,200 systems it uses to manage finances, human resources, logistics, property, and weapons acquisitions, according to an April 2012 GAO report.
That amount does not include billions of dollars more in each of the military services' "operations and maintenance" budgets used for upkeep of the systems.
Precise totals on the extent and cost of these mistakes are impossible to come by, and for the very reason the errors plague the military in the first place: the Defense Department's jury-rigged network of mostly incompatible computer systems for payroll and accounting, many of them decades old, long obsolete, and unable to communicate with each other.