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Navy Scrambles to Repay Troops After Computer Glitch

Charles King Fitness Center on Naval Base Guam (Navy Photo)
Charles King Fitness Center on Naval Base Guam (Navy Photo)

A Navy computer glitch Sept. 24 resulted in $5.5 million in duplicate charges and overdraft fees to customers who used Navy Morale, Welfare and Recreation or child care services in the Pacific and at one stateside base between January and June of this year.

The problem, caused during a software update at Naval Support Activity Mid-South in Millington, Tennessee, impacted payments made at all MWR and youth programs, including child care centers, between Jan. 22 and June 23 at Navy bases in Japan, Guam, South Korea and Singapore, and at the Naval Postgraduate School in California, officials said.

Although there is no estimate on how many troops and Defense Department civilians were incorrectly charged again for past purchases, officials said 133,000 individual transactions were impacted.

Officials expect the charges to be reversed "within the next 48 to 72 hours," or by Sept. 30, Dan Kondziela, director of the Navy's installations command support services, told Military.com.

The error was not caused by a security breach and will not impact users' personal information, he said.

"This is entirely the Navy's issue to own," said Jerry Hieb, who directs the Navy's fleet and family readiness.

Officials first became aware of the issue when customers began complaining over the weekend of duplicate charges. Although Navy officials said the charges were halted when the glitch was discovered, time differences and delays at some banks have meant that new incorrect charges may still be posting to some customers' cards, officials said.

"We understand that this is not just some minor inconvenience to you. Hundreds, and in some cases, thousands of dollars were charged to your credit card accounts and, even worse for those of you who like to use debit cards to make your purchases, money was taken out of your checking accounts that was not accounted for because you had already paid for these services," Cmdr. Ron Flanders, a spokesman for Navy Region Japan, said in a video posted Wednesday to the region's social media account. "This has caused a serious impact to you and your lives. So we understand the gravity of the situation."

Customers who were charged overdraft fees or other fines as a result of the glitch can take copies of their bank or credit card statements showing those fees to their local MWR administration office for reimbursement, officials said.

Reimbursement requests for large fees may need to be filed with installation command support services in Millington, officials said. A form for those requests is under development.

Update: Here's how to be reimbursed for those fees.

Customers who have questions about the charges or reversal and reimbursement process can also call a new 24 hour hotline set up for problem at 844-697-4357 or send an email, officials said. Both will be live starting at 5 p.m. CT Wednesday.

"The bottom line is all fees directly related to this issue will be reimbursed to the customer," Hieb said.

Some customers reported on a Naval Forces Japan Facebook page that they have been charged on accounts that have since been deactivated. Others said they have since moved out of Japan or the other impacted regions and are dealing with these problems from their new bases.

"We understand that this is not some minor inconvenience, and we know the amounts of money that some of you have been charged," Flanders said.

Families who are experiencing financial hardship because their credit cards have been maxed out or checking accounts wiped clean by the glitch should visit the Navy and Marine Corps Relief Society for emergency funds, Flanders said.

No interim solution was provided for DoD civilian employees who were impacted but cannot use the relief society.

-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at amy.bushatz@military.com.

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