Reporter- Bret Buganski

Aug 14, 2014 12:32 PM by Bret Buganski

N4T Investigators: Unpaid Soldier, part 3

TUCSON- This is a News 4 Tucson Investigators update on a story we first brought you in June. Sergeant Phillip Puchkors put his life on the life and was discharged from the U.S. Army Reserves on October 13,2013. But since he left active duty, his final paycheck went missing in action. However, Puchkors finally got that check, but he had to give it back.

"Paperwork not being filled out right, not being processed in a timely manner," said Puchkors, explaining the variety of reasons he was given for why he had not been paid.

"Just give me a straight answer yes or no," said Puchkors, who is wondering if he will ever get his paycheck straightened out.

Puchkors said he called the Defense Finance and Accounting Services (DFAS) multiple times, but every time he called, he was given a different reason for why his check had not arrived. But after nearly nine months of waiting, DFAS finally sent Puchkors a check of nearly $5300. DFAS originally said the check would arrive by July 4, 2014, but it was late and arrived on July 11, 2014.

"It's changed from yeah we think we owe you money to no, you owe us money," said Puchkors, explaining how he not only had to give the entire check back, but DFAS told him he owed the department $700.

"Human resources complies all the information that the personnel sector of the Department of the Army has and then they transfer that and they put it on to your discharge papers."

Puchkors says it's an error he himself couldn't have prevented.

Just weeks ago, he received his W-2 tax forms, albeit, there were six different ones with six different amounts. To add to his confusion, Puchkors was also given two different versions of a corrected military discharge form, both dated July 28, 2014.

Puchkors also said he was told by DFAS he wasn't the only one experiencing problems with his paycheck. He says the department found 309 soldiers nationwide who are dealing with similar issues. So the News 4 Tucson Investigators called DFAS, which did not give us a formal statement in time for the broadcast. A representative from DFAS didn't confirm or deny that statement, but did say the department was conducting an audit of sorts to determine why this is happening to multiple soldiers.

"Same step it's been, we do our part on our end and we wait, some day maybe we'll get a resolution," said Puchkors, who feels like he's in a war with no end in sight.

"If I'm not entitled to it that's fine I'll move on with my life and that's fine."

Congressman Ron Barber's office is working closely with Puchkors to get the issue resolved. In a statement, Barber said, "Our men and women in uniform deserve all the benefits they've earned when they return home. Mr. Puchkors has gone through a lengthy and frustrating process as he leaves the military - something that no member of our armed forces should have to endure. My office is focused on doing everything we can to help Mr. Puchkors and veterans like him facing bureaucratic red tape in the federal government. It's our job to cut through it. I have a highly trained and persistent constituent services staff that is dedicated to addressing these types of problems with many federal agencies. Since I took office, we have received nearly 4,000 requests for assistance and recovered more than $16 million for Southern Arizonans who were owed money from the federal government."

If you have a tip for the News 4 Tucson Investigators, email us at investigators@kvoa.com, or call the tip line, 520-955-4444.

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