Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Metzger File, Part III

Air Force Times has the latest on Major Jill Metzger, the personnel officer who went missing in Kyrgyzstan last fall, touching off an international incident. As readers of this blog know, Metzger's case--and its ultimate disposition--remain shrouded in mystery. Both the service and the Justice Department are still investigating the incident (Major Metzger claims she was abducted, but Kyrgyz and U.S. authorities have their doubts), and more recently, there have been conflicting reports on her status within the Air Force.

For those keeping score at home, early accounts suggested that Major Metzger would be retired in early July, due to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that she suffered while in "captivity." That touched off howls of protest in the military community. Wounded warriors from Iraq and Afghanistan, trying to pick their way through the maze of health care and disability benefits--were incensed that Metzger had apparently moved to the head of the line.

Almost as quickly, the major's status appeared to change again. Within a couple of days, Metzger's mother told the press that her daughter would be taking an 18-month leave of absence from the service, beginning this month. Mrs. Metzger said that the time away would allow the major to spend time with her husband (whom she married before deploying to Kyrgyzstan), and decide if she wants to remain in the Air Force. Not long after that, the story changed again, with Mrs. Metzger reporting that her daughter was going on medical leave.

While all of these options are permissible under military regulations, that awarding of medical leave struck many observers as odd. Personnel with far more serious injuries--including former prisoners of war--received far less leave, and many were confined to treatment facilities during that period. Whatever Major Metzger experienced in Kyrgyzstan, she was able to return to duty at Moody AFB, and worked in the base personnel office until her retirement/leave-of-absence/medical leave kicked in.

And, for what it's worth, Metzger's status has apparently changed again since our last post. The major's father, a retired Air Force Colonel. told the Times that his daughter has been "temporarily medically retired" due to PTSD. That determination was made by a three-member board at the Air Force Personnel Center, which reviewed Metzger's case. Major Metzger will go on "temporarily retired" status after she uses up her annual leave. As we understand it, Metzger will receive at least half her base pay while temporarily retired; she will be reexamined by Air Force doctors in 16-18 months, to determine if she can return to active duty, or will be permanently retired.

Unfortunately, the latest Times' account does nothing to explain Metzger's changing status over the past month or so. As we previously noted, the Major hasn't spoken with the media since her return to the CONUS, and due to Privacy Act restrictions, the Air Force can't comment publicly on her duty status. However, in the interest of clarity (and partial disclosure), someone needs to explain (a) when the medical board met, and (b) when they decided to retire Major Metzger temporarily. Such information--which could be divulged without violating the officer's privacy--would go a long way toward quelling rumors about "sweetheart deals" and a duty status that seemed to change almost daily.


As we've noted previously, the temporary medical retirement also serves at least one legal purpose. Though on the retired list, Major Metzger remains subject to Air Force control, and could be recalled for additional interviews with Air Force and Justice Department investigators. Last fall, she testified before a federal grand jury probing the Kyrgyzstan incident; there's no indication if she will be recalled by that panel, or when the investigations might be completed.


johca said...

"As we've noted previously, the temporary medical retirement also serves at least one legal purpose."

That's not accurate--once administratively separated from active duty on TDRL she is no longer under jurisdiction of court-martial authority unless recalled back into active duty status. There are many legal loop holes and trickery to prevent this if she knows she is being recalled to active duty for purpose of facing a court martial authority.

johca said...

I seriously doubt the intent of giving her a disability retirement seperation is to ensure she also gets charged with the offense of fraudulently obtaining her discharge.

Rule 202. Persons subject to the jurisdiction of courts-martial

Courtmartial jurisdiction over active duty personnel ordinarily ends on delivery of a discharge certificate or its equivalent to the person concerned issued pursuant to competent orders. Orders transferring a person to the inactive reserve are the equivalent of a discharge certificate for purposes of jurisdiction.

(B) Termination of jurisdiction over active duty personnel. As indicated above, the delivery of a valid discharge certificate or its equivalent ordinarily serves to terminate court-martial jurisdiction.

( d ) A person discharged from the armed forces forces who is later charged with having fraudulently obtained that discharge is, subject to the statute of limitations, subject to trial by court-martial on that charge, and is after apprehension subject to the code while in the custody of the armed forces for trial. Upon conviction of that charge such a person is subject to trial by court-martial for any offenses under the code committed before the fraudulent discharge.

Unknown said...

Johca--Your points are correct, but we made no mention of a courts-martial, just the possibility of a recall in connection with the investigation, perhaps another grand jury appearance.

Additionally, there's a provision that you can't be "completely" separated from the service if you're the target of an investigation, and officially, both the Air Force and the Justice Department are still looking into the matter.

However, I don't think anyone expects Maj Metzger will ever face charges in connection with this case. She played her cards very well, and the service would prefer for the entire mess to go away. Putting her on the TDRL gets Metzger even more removed from the public spotlight, and gives the government more time. Expect a report exonerating her in 10 months to a year (possibly sooner), followed by a quiet approval of a permanent "disability" retirement.

johca said...

There is a significant regulatory authority obstructing her eligibility for temporary or permanent disability retirement.


Sec. 1207. Disability from intentional misconduct or willful neglect: separation

Each member of the armed forces who incurs a physical disability that, in the determination of the Secretary concerned, makes him unfit to perform the duties of his office, grade, rank, or rating, and that resulted from his intentional misconduct or willful neglect or was incurred during a period of unauthorized absence, shall be separated from his armed force without entitlement to any benefits under this chapter.

johca said...

Need to read Title 10 Armed Forces, Subtitle A-General Mitary Law, Part II--Personnel, Chapter 76-Missing Persons to undersytand the applicability. What I'm cutting and pasting is out of context as she reappeared alive, but her cliam of being kidnapped is Chapter 76 Missing Persons.

the other difficulty the Department ofthe Air Force has is:

b.Sec. 1503. Actions of Secretary concerned; initial board inquiry
(d) Duties of Board.--A board appointed to conduct an inquiry into the whereabouts and status of a missing person under this section shall—
(1) collect, develop, and investigate all facts and evidence relating to the disappearance or whereabouts and status of the person;
(2) collect appropriate documentation of the facts and evidence covered by the board's investigation;
(3) analyze the facts and evidence, make findings based on that analysis, and draw conclusions as to the current whereabouts and status of the person; and (4) with respect to each person covered by the inquiry, recommend to the Secretary who appointed the board that—
(A) the person be placed in a missing status; or
(B) the person be declared to have deserted, to be absent without leave, or (subject to the requirements of section 1507 of this title) to be dead.