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Monday, February 25, 2008

Cleveland army recruiters raise the stakes for enlisting

Posted By on Mon, Feb 25, 2008 at 5:22 AM

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40 grand is a handsome incentive to get you to beautiful Iraq
After decades of screwing veterans with elusive health care and benefits, it appears that the feds are finally trying to make up for their past sins. On February 4, the Army launched a pilot program in four cities, including Cleveland, allowing enlistees to receive up to $40,000 for a small business or a home mortgage. “We’re trying to find what America is looking for,” says Greg Becker of the Cleveland Army Recruiting Battalion. “The Army is trying to be innovative. We’ve done lots of studies, and people are saying that this is something they would like to have...” The Advantage Fund program offers perspective soldiers an added incentive on top of the $40,000 enlistment bonus. Once recruits complete their contracts, they can use the money to buy a house or start a business. If they don’t do either after five years, then they receive the funds as a cash bonus, to spend as they wish. Which all sounds too good to be true. After all, for years the federal government has been forcing injured vets to refund their enlistment bonuses if their injuries prevent them from completing their contracts. It’s gotten so bad that Ohio now has a bill on the table to bar the government from collecting. So what’s the caveat with the Advantage Fund? None, says Becker. If a solider is injured in the line of duty, the Advantage bonus is immediately paid out in full. Whether a down payment on a house is worth a limb or a life remains to be seen. Becker says that they’ve already gotten four recruits through the fund. He also says that the fund isn’t in response to a lack of enlistees. On the contrary, Becker says that last year the Army met its recruitment goals, picking up 80,000 active duty troops, and around 25,000 reserves. The Army will test the program for nine months. If people seem enthused, it’ll go nationwide. “If America likes the idea of getting money for a small business or a house, then we’ll keep it on,” Becker says. – Denise Grollmus

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