Pundits and legislators are criticizing the Ministry of National Defense for what they described as its failure to stem a flood of military personnel leaving the service by questionable means.
Ministry officials fielded criticism and questions at a public hearing last week organized by New Power Party Legislator Hung Tzu-yung (洪慈庸), which was held to address the options for “exit strategies” for officers who want to retire or take up jobs in the civilian sector.
The issue has gained notoriety in recent weeks, with reports saying that some armed forces units have unusually high numbers of officers being treated for psychiatric disorders at military hospitals.
Legislators have called for an investigation to be launched, after it was alleged that many of those claiming mental-health issues were faking their symptoms to gain a doctor’s diagnosis that would enable them to quit or retire, with senior officers able to draw large pensions.
In one case, a naval officer surnamed Yang (楊) received NT$500,000 in pension, NT$500,000 from a medical insurance he had paid for just prior to developing the alleged illness and a daily hospital allowance of between NT$2,000 and NT$4,000, all the while collecting his monthly salary, reports said.
In another alleged scam, a company commander and his deputy commander at the 66th Marine Brigade in Taoyuan were admitted to the psychiatric ward at the Tri-Service General Hospital’s Beitou Branch in Taipei, which is also known as the 818th Military Hospital.
According to information provided by Hung’s office, from 2012 to April this year, a total of 829 military officers either left the service or were approved for retirement. Of these, 661 — just under 80 percent — were released after being treated for psychiatric disorders at military hospitals.
Hung said her office has received numerous reports from soldiers — and their parents — that they were unable to adapt to military life, saying they would like to leave, but the current system does not allow them to, as they must fulfill their service-year requirements after having first signed up for the volunteer force and then becoming professional soldiers.
Others were concerned over debts they would incur if they did not complete their publicly funded military school program.
Political pundit and media personality Hector Kang (康仁俊) said that this medical scam has been going on for some time, because some soldiers cannot endure the strict discipline of the military, and they had received good job offers in the civilian sector.
Kang advised the ministry to conduct an immediate evaluation of the system, saying that many of its practices are anachronistic.
More flexible exit strategies that are responsive to the needs of today’s soldiers should be put in place, he said.
Hung has been concerned with rights of soldiers in military service, after rising to national prominence at the helm of a national movement against military abuse spurred by the death of her brother, army corporal Hung Chung-chiu (洪仲丘), who died of heatstroke following punishment exercises days before his scheduled discharge in 2013.
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