The Army expects to correct all cases by the end of this year for soldiers who were improperly linked to, or accused of, fraudulently earning bonuses as part of a recruitment program that was investigated from 2012 to 2016, according to the service’s Criminal Investigation Division.
About 1,900 Army National Guard and Army Reserve soldiers were inappropriately added to an FBI criminal database, and others to a Department of Defense database, CID officials said during a media roundtable Thursday morning.
The problems started for troops when they participated in the Guard-Recruiting Assistance Program, which ran from 2005 to 2012, but was shut down following allegations of fraud. Failures by the CID investigation that came next received national attention.
As one soldier put it in an opinion article for Army Times: Participating in G-RAP wasn’t a crime. But simply being investigated as though it was a crime has ruined lives and careers. Now, the Army appears to be correcting those mistakes.
“We expect to have the majority of these investigations reviewed and corrected by the end of 2022, though a few may extend into early 2023,” Gregory Ford, director of CID said Thursday.
“Simply put, proper procedures were not always followed,” he continued. “We acknowledge those mistakes and are taking action to correct these records.”
Improperly adding soldiers to criminal databases hurt them after they left the Army because they still needed to undergo background checks, said Doug O’Connell, a Texas lawyer and retired Army officer who has represented clients accused in the G-RAP debacle since 2014.
That could impact everyone from a physician assistant trying to get a medical license, to a veteran trying to become a police officer, O’Connell told Army Times by phone.
“The G-RAP program worked magnificently” when it came to helping meet recruiting targets, O’Connell said. “It went off the rails when CID agents made flawed assumptions and ruined people’s lives and Army leaders didn’t stand up for junior soldiers.”
Now, CID director Ford said, the Army is working to remove the affected individuals from the databases and notify them of the action. Soldiers who participated in G-RAP, or its smaller counterpart for the Army Reserve, AR-RAP, were offered $2,000 for each successful referral.
When the program came under scrutiny for millions in potential fraud, a CID investigation called Task Force Raptor put a stop to it.
Between 2012 and 2016, the Army conducted over 900 reviews, officials said at the Thursday roundtable, adding that 286 individuals faced administrative action while another 137 faced prosecution.
Ford noted that for those who were negatively impacted by the sweeping investigation, any sort of compensation or relief will likely be determined on an individual basis.
CID is encouraging soldiers and veterans to reach out via its website with updated contact information if they believe they’ve been impacted.
“We absolutely are and should be capable of conducting an investigation within the span and scope of this,” Ford said.
Within the next 90 days, the Army will complete a review of its policies, processes and training to ensure future investigations are conducted appropriately, he also shared.
For O’Connell, the Texas lawyer with G-RAP clients, the Army’s admission means the service Army has acknowledged some liability. It also comes, he added, as the service struggles with a large recruiting shortfall.
“The Army has repeatedly denied these same facts over the last decade,” O’Connell told Army Times. “The admissions today are the result of negative media coverage and a desire to resurrect the G-RAP program to compensate for failing recruiting numbers.”
Army Times reported in September that the National Guard is considering whether it will reestablish a national-level recruiting referral bonus program to address a worsening recruiting and end strength shortfall.
Jonathan is a staff writer and editor of the Early Bird Brief newsletter for Military Times. Follow him on Twitter @lehrfeld_media