Wounded Yerington Marine Charged For Food

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A Yerington Marine who lost part of his foot in Iraq also lost part of his pay to the hospital where he recuperated.

Marine Staff Sgt. Bill Murwin underwent a partial amputation after a grenade exploded in his Humvee June 15.

He was billed $243 for food while hospitalized for a month at the Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., and for a few days in a hospital in Germany.

He also received a threat to send his German hospital account to a collection agency just three days after he received the first invoice.

Thanks to Murwin, a law requiring soldiers to be billed for hospital food probably won't be on the books much longer.

Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he will sponsor a bill to change the policy. Rep. Bill Young, R-Fla., has introduced a similar measure in the House. Young's wife, Beverly, visited Murwin in the hospital. Young picked up the $243 tab.

Reid called the law a disgrace.

"Obviously, our country owes Sgt. Murwin a debt of gratitude. Instead of gratitude, he got a bill," Reid said.

Murwin told the Reno Gazette-Journal he knew he would have to pay for food in the hospital, but didn't know it was the law.

"It was an annoyance for me, especially the collections notice. But as senior Marine in the ward I visited a lot of the younger guys, 18 or 19 years old, who had been there for months and were facing food bills of $1,000 or more.

"Those guys were hurt worse than me, and had bigger financial burdens than I do, so you can bet they were worried about the bill," Murwin said.

Soldiers receive an $8.10 daily allowance for food when they aren't' eating at government messes. But because they get free food in the hospital, they have to pay back that daily allowance in a lump sum when they are discharged from medical care, military officials said.

Commanders in the field have discretion to waive those bills, but are blocked by law from doing this for soldiers in the hospital. The military is working with Congress to change the law.

Murwin, who said he expects 98 percent recovery from his wounds and will eventually return to his job as a Lyon County deputy sheriff, said he's happy others in the military won't have to lie in hospital beds fretting about bills for Jell-O and boiled peas.

"It's not about me," he said. "The food bill was the last thing on my mind in that hospital. But for the younger guys, it's one less thing they'll have to worry about."