COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Military officials say they are continuing to crack down on misconduct by soldiers, despite complaints that "other than honorable" discharges are being used as part of a system to reduce ranks and save money because of budget cuts.
The Army cut nearly 58,000 soldiers from 2010 to 2014. Over that time, about 57,000 soldiers were kicked out for discipline issues. The Army says the similarity of the numbers is a coincidence.
U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Aurora, said he believes the Army is using discipline to save money.
"They were pretty defensive about their program, and they said it wasn't about downsizing," Coffman said. "I think it is."
Retired Army Capt. Donald Hamilton said he was accused of lying about performance issues and suspended from command pending an investigation into bonus money he received.
Hamilton said he was arrested and questioned, threatened with a court-martial and urged to resign.
The disciplinary action was canceled after he produced proof of his actions.
Hamilton was retired from the Army in April for injuries he suffered in an Iraq bombing. He received benefits that would have been taken away if he'd accepted the disciplinary discharge, the Colorado Springs Gazette reported.
The Army is in the middle of a seven-year downsizing plan that will take the service from 562,000 soldiers in 2010 to 450,000 soldiers in 2017.
Commanders tell soldiers they can get a general discharge for minor infractions that allows them to keep their Veterans Affairs benefits, including medical care and disability payments, but gives them a poor service record. A general discharge also denies soldiers many Army benefits, including separation pay, continued Army medical benefits, medical retirement and college funds.
Military officials say they follow the rules.
"Separations of soldiers from the Army are taken very seriously and require a thorough look at all the facts," Army spokeswoman Tatjana Christian said. "We have a process that is fair, objective and methodical to ensure due process and that the maintenance of good order and discipline is maintained within the ranks."