A guide to avoiding, dealing with investigations of property loss

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Financial liability investigations of property loss (FLIPL) are a common occurrence in the Army.

However, just because FLIPLs are common doesn’t mean that they aren’t preventable.

The property accountability principles we learned upon first entering the Army still apply long after you leave the TRADOC environment: maintain your hand receipts, don’t lend your equipment out, and if you can’t keep your equipment on your person, make sure that it’s properly secured so that no one else can get to it. While these principles may not apply to every piece of equipment you are responsible for, these guidelines can help prevent most FLIPLs.

Nonetheless, even the most squared-away Soldier may encounter a FLIPL. The key to avoiding or reducing financial liability is immediate, decisive action. Army Regulation 735-5, the Army’s property accountability regulation, permits you only seven calendar days from the date that you’re notified about the FLIPL to submit rebuttal matters. Too many Soldiers wait until the last minute to seek legal assistance, which usually results in poor rebuttals.

As soon as you receive notice of a FLIPL, you should contact the Legal Assistance Office to schedule an appointment. While you aren’t required to consult with legal counsel in order to rebut a FLIPL, we can help you write a more persuasive rebuttal and potentially tip the scales in your favor. If you are unable to get an appointment immediately, you need to request an extension from the investigating officer. Don’t wait until you see an attorney to request an extension; your suspense date may pass before our next available appointment.

While you await your appointment, reread your FLIPL and try to understand why the IO thinks you should be held financially liable. Next, recount the facts surrounding the incident. Ty to remember if there is evidence that you can use to disprove the IO’s conclusion: is there someone who can attest to the fact that you weren’t responsible for the loss? Was there someone else who had more immediate control over the property? You should start gathering sworn statements and any other evidence that you think may be helpful in rebutting the FLIPL. Next, begin drafting your rebuttal; the less time the legal assistance attorney has to devote to recounting the basic facts of the incident, the more they can dedicate to helping you create a persuasive rebuttal. Finally, make sure to bring all of your supporting documents to your appointment. The legal assistance attorney may be able to catch something in your documents that you may have missed.

Should your rebuttal fail, you may still submit a request for reconsideration, based upon legal error, to the appeal authority. You may also request remission or cancellation of the debt or extension of the debt collection period. Again, it is not required that you seek legal counsel, but it is strongly recommended.

If you have legal assistance questions, call the Fort Irwin Legal Assistance Office at 380-5321. The hours of operation are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 1-4 p.m. on Thursdays. The office is located in building 230.