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A bungled contract is still devastating National Guard employees

Catherine Rampell on

For two years, Frank Ourada has been "supporting our troops" -- more literally than most.

He has connected soldiers and veterans with food pantries, temporary housing and legal advice. He haggled with an insurance company when a soldier's home flooded. He helped a suicidal veteran find treatment.

Ourada basically ran triage for military families, connecting them with whatever services they need to survive.

This position, National Guard Family Assistance Center specialist, may be Ourada's most rewarding ever. The only rival was his time as an infantry Marine, which in 2009 left him disabled.

"This work is my therapy," Ourada, 30, told me.

And yet last Friday he resigned. Because the job he loved so much had left him homeless.

 

Ourada had his pay slashed in March, from $20.08 hourly to $13.17. He soon fell behind on mortgage payments and lost his Minnesota home. He's been crashing with friends and family since August; next week he'll move in with a buddy in Utah, where he hopes to find better-paying work.

Ourada's situation is unusually dire, but he's far from alone.

Hundreds of his colleagues around the country also had their pay cut by 25 to 50 percent in March. About a third have quit, taking their networks and collective decades of experience, in an exodus that leaves American military families at risk of falling through the cracks.

The root of the problem? A bungled government contract.

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