National Guard soldiers forced to re-pay money from Hurricane Matthew

(Corey Schmidt | WBTV)
Updated: Sep. 28, 2018 at 4:13 PM EDT
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RALEIGH, NC (WBTV) - More than 1,000 soldiers with the North Carolina National Guard who were activated to respond to Hurricane Matthew have been told they have to re-pay some of the money included in their paycheck from the state.

The demand for re-payment is the result of an audit conducted by the North Carolina State Auditor that was released this spring.

The audit found 1,166 National Guard soldiers had been paid the wrong amount of money for each day they were activated in the wake of Hurricane Matthew.

The report from Auditor Beth Wood’s office found the overpayments totaled $38,559, of which $28,919 was paid by the federal government.

“The errors occurred because the National Guard, a division of the Department, did not have procedures in place to ensure the correct rates were used,” the audit report states.

According to one letter posted by a guardsman on Facebook in early September, the North Carolina Department of Public Safety notified the affected guardsmen earlier this month that they would be required to re-pay the amount of the overpayment by October 9, 2018.

A state law requires state agencies to collect any over payment made with state funds.

A spokeswoman for NCDPS issued the following statement in response to an inquiry by WBTV:

“Our Guard men and women are dedicated soldiers who provide critical service to North Carolinians to protect life and property and preserve peace and public safety, and we are grateful for them. The department deeply regrets the 2016 coding error that lead to overpayments and is working to help minimize any adverse impacts to our valued men and women of the Guard.”

“The N.C. Office of the State Auditor discovered that overpayments were made in 2016 while conducting the Statewide Federal Compliance Audit for the Year ended June 30, 2017. The State Auditor brought this issue to the attention of DPS in February of 2018. Under N.C.G.S. 143-64.80(b), ‘[n]o State department, agency, or institution, or other State-funded entity may forgive repayment of an overpayment of State funds, but shall have a duty to pursue the repayment of State funds by all lawful means available.’ DPS began the process of collecting the overpayment as required by state law by determining the individual overpayment amounts and notifying employees of the requirement for repayment.”

In response to questions from WBTV, a DPS spokeswoman said the agency was working to push back the date by which the guardsmen must repay the money.

Document: Read the audit report

“We are working with the Office of State Controller to extend the deadline for repayment and pause the automatic collection of overpayment until the next pay period. This will enable us to provide repayment options to affected Guard members as needed,” the spokeswoman said.

As it currently stands, the letter sent to the guardsmen says the state will assess late fees and penalties if the overpayment amount is not re-paid by November 1, 2018.

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