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The Defense Financing and Accounting Service (DFAS) Cleveland branch is firing 67 employees over their own personal debt. DFAS Cleveland processes paychecks and pensions for Pentagon employees. Twenty employees have already been fired, 23 are currently on suspension, and 24 are set to be terminated next month.  

From the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

Angelo "Troy" Marshall will lose his job with the federal government Friday after 17 years.

Not because of a poor job performance or downsizing, but because he owes nearly $6,000 on credit card and medical bills.

The 48-year-old Cuyahoga Falls man is among 67 workers who he said will be fired at the Defense Finance and Accounting Service in Cleveland because of security concerns about their personal credit. U.S. Reps. Dennis Kucinich and Steve LaTourette are aware of the situation and said the rules need to be changed.

Now the reason for their firing is a federal policy that requires employees who handle critical and sensitive information have clean financial histories.  This wouldn’t have been a problem for these 67 workers though a few years ago, as their job was classified as "non-classified, non-sensitive."  However, in 2005 the agency suddenly changed their jobs to "non-classified, sensitive" without explanation.

So now we have workers like Mr. Marshall (UPDATE: who is also the Union leader) who has done his job without incident for 17 years and is now all of a sudden will become another unemployed person in Ohio, because of $6,000 in credit card debt and medical bills.  That is not even that much debt in today’s age.  The medical bills could have come from one episode of care.

I can understand the reasoning behind the policy, but I think it’s faulty.  They are making an assumption that all people who carry more than a minimal amount of debt, are a risk to fraud the government to improve their situation.  I’m sorry, but this is painting with too broad of a brush, especially, when you are talking about employees who have worked there for years and have never committed such actions.

The Union and representatives Kucinich (D) and LaTourette (R) are fighting this.  Kucinich believes the issue could affect millions of Americans:

"It's unfair and is setting a horrible precedent," said Kucinich, a Cleveland Democrat. "If the DFAS decision is upheld, millions of Americans won't be able to work because of bad credit. I will ask Edolphus Towns, the chairman of the Government Oversight Committee, to subpoena credit records of the DFAS' top brass to see if they can meet their own standards."

A comment from another worker indicates, that some of the employees may be losing their job over ticky-tack stuff like a $28 medical charge that was unreported:

"First of all, why was my job reclassified?" Hairston said. "I'm not an accountant. I'm filing checks. Second, when my boss checked the full credit report, why did he question debt like a $28 'unknown medical creditor' and not say anything about the $6,000 credit card debt I had? I had no idea who I owed $28 to, yet they said I tried to falsify credit information."

How hypocritical of the government to fire employees over debt issues, when the government itself is 12 trillion dollars in debt.  A person’s own personal debt issues shouldn’t be sufficient grounds for firing someone.  The reasons a family may be in temporary debt are numerous – everything from a sudden illness in the family, to a sudden death, college/private school tuition for children, you name it.  

As a side note, interesting fact of the day:  The DFAS Cleveland processes President Obama’s paycheck.

UPDATE:  Thanks for the Rec's!

UPDATE 2: Here are some other links with the same story:
MSN Money
WKYC - NBC affiliate in Cleveland
ABC News
WKYC - another story

Originally posted to The Clevelander on Mon Mar 29, 2010 at 12:30 PM PDT.


Should these workers be fired because of their personal debt?

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