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The couple was desperate from "just not knowing where food's going to come from," he says.
"They just hit one button and they take your whole paycheck away.
NO-ACCOUNT ACCOUNTING Pay errors are part of a larger phenomenon that Reuters will explore in a series of articles: the Defense Department's endemic failure to keep track of its money - how much it has, how much it pays out and how much is lost or stolen.
The department's authorized 2013 budget, after sequester, totals 5.8 billion - by far the largest chunk of the annual federal budget approved by Congress.
As their money dwindled, the couple began hitting church-run food pantries.
Aiken took out an Army Emergency Relief Loan to cover expenses of their December move into a new apartment.
At Christmas, Operation Santa Claus provided the family with presents - one for each child, per the charity's rules.
Eventually, they began pawning their possessions - jewelry, games, an i Phone, and even the medic bag Aiken used when saving lives in Afghanistan.
As proof, consider that a law in effect since 1992 requires annual audits of all federal agencies - and the Pentagon alone has never complied.With short-term and long-term memory loss, he struggled to keep appointments and remember key dates and events. "They weren't compassionate." They were also wrong.The money the military took back from Aiken resulted from accounting and other errors, and it should have been his to keep.Further, even after Aiken complained, the Defense Department didn't return the bulk of the money to Aiken until after Reuters inquired about his case.The Pentagon agency that identified the overpayments, clawed them back and resisted Aiken's pleas for explanation and redress is the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, or DFAS (pronounced "DEE-fass").