At least 1,376 troops in the Texas National Guard have faced pay issues since September, according to internal documents obtained by Military.com. 109 issues still remain for the roughly 6,800 Texas troops assigned to the mission.
The troops are part of the nearly year-old state mission ordered by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott that has seen reports of a wave of suicides and self harm on the mission, alcohol abuse, and troops facing severe financial hardship.
National Guard officials have responded to reporting about pay and discipline issues by describing coverage as being built on “nebulous charges.”
Col. Rita Holton, a Texas Guard spokesperson, told Military.com earlier in January that 82 soldiers were facing pay issues, while the document revealing pay issues that was reviewed by Military.com was dated Friday. The Texas National Guard did not respond to a request for comment ahead of this story’s publication.
The pay issues range from soldiers being shortchanged, sometimes by thousands of dollars, to minor discrepancies. One Guardsman interviewed by Military.com received a $100 paycheck after two weeks of duty, a period when that Guardsman should have received a minimum of around $2,000. Meanwhile, some troops were overpaid, which can have a domino effect where pay is withheld unexpectedly from future checks.
Of the outstanding pay issues, 19 troops were overpaid and 90 are missing checks. It is unclear how far back the outstanding pay issues go.
Military.com had previously reported that there had been accounts of issues with pay, but the internal National Guard document obtained by the publication is the first to provide specifics on the number of soldiers affected.
While Texas has seemingly made progress on the pay issues, it is unclear why those issues existed to begin with, or why so many soldiers were impacted. Some senior officials interviewed point to troops swiftly being mobilized en masse, sometimes with days’ notice.
For troops to deploy under state orders, they have to fill out entirely new W-4 forms, which makes them state employees. Because of that paperwork, Texas effectively hired a thousands-strong labor force with little notice or logistical support.
“I don’t know what’s going on; our state never had this problem. But imagine this, how in the world did Texas add thousands of employees to the payroll system?” one senior Guard official from another state told Military.com on the condition of anonymity to avoid retaliation. “The scale is not surprising, but it’s also heartbreaking.”
A key issue, current Texas Guardsmen who were interviewed by Military.com said, was many checks not being itemized. That means that when soldiers are paid it is unclear what days they have been paid for — making it difficult to track whether they’ve received the correct amounts.
Some soldiers have faced financial hardship due to state orders earning them significantly less money than their civilian jobs. State orders also do not come with benefits, which are associated with active duty federal orders and typically pay soldiers less.
On Friday, Holton issued a statement that included criticism of media reports, including some from Military.com.
“There have been nebulous charges that service members are not being paid. This is inaccurate. While there have been administrative pay challenges, currently every service member assigned to Operation Lone Star is being paid,” Holton said.
Yet, in the same statement, Holton noted that a lot of troops still have unresolved pay issues, many of which have been brewing for months.
“75 percent of pay discrepancies have been resolved, to include, back
pay for those who have been paid inaccurate amounts,” Holton’s statement added.
— Steve Beynon
Several major credit card companies have decided to move forward with a plan to track purchases made at gun retailers in California, CBS News reported Monday.
American Express, Visa, and Mastercard will implement a new merchant code for firearm and ammunition retailers, allowing banks to track “suspicious” purchases to comply with a new California law. Adopting the code will not provide information about the specific items purchased at the retailer, as credit card companies do not record data at an SKU level.
Retailers are assigned merchant category codes based on the types of items they sell. According to Mastercard’s quick reference booklet, gun stores are currently assigned the “miscellaneous” or “durable goods” merchant category code. Other businesses listed under those codes include gas lighting fixtures, musical instruments, fireworks, fire extinguishers, grave markers, luggage, and wood chips.
In 2022, the International Organization for Standardization approved a unique code for firearm retailers. California then passed a law requiring retailers to adopt the ISO’s new code by May 2025.
The three major credit card companies previously agreed to assign the new code to gun retailers to allow banks to track firearm purchases more easily. In September 2022, 24 Republican state attorneys general wrote a letter to the companies, urging them to reconsider, Blaze News previously reported. According to the AGs, implementing a unique code could violate citizens’ rights.
“Categorizing the constitutionally protected right to purchase firearms unfairly singles out law-abiding merchants and consumers alike,” the letter argued.
Supporters of the law believe that the implementation of a unique code could prevent mass shooting incidents. Conservatives argue that the move will infringe on Second Amendment rights and potentially cause banks to flag and report so-called suspicious purchase patterns that target law-abiding Americans.
In March 2023, the companies agreed to halt their plans to implement the new code, citing pressure from Republican politicians, Blaze News previously reported.
On Monday, CBS News stated that American Express, Visa, and Mastercard have since reversed course and once again plan to adopt the new code to comply with California’s law.
The news outlet reported that the credit card companies told congressional Democrats last month that the new code would be available and ready for use in California by May 2025.
Mastercard executive Tucker Foote wrote to lawmakers, “The applicable standalone merchants in California primarily engaged in the sale of firearms will be required to utilize the code.”
Visa senior vice president Robert B. Thomson III’s comments to lawmakers seemed to indicate that the company will continue to pause the adoption of the code at least until California’s new law goes into effect in 2025. CBS News reported that Thomson assured Democrats that Visa would endeavor to comply with the state’s rule.
Thomson wrote, “With respect to the [firearm merchant code], there continues to be a tremendous amount of regulatory and legislative uncertainty.”
“Given the conflicting state laws on this topic and the likelihood that other states will enact legislation to either restrict or mandate the code, our implementation pause remains in effect,” Thomson added.