An unknown number of troops and veterans have been locked out of phone service as the result of the financial troubles of a mobile phone service company that caters to the military.
"We praised you as the best service ever, and then you swipe our service, our number and our money from under our noses," wrote one customer on Facebook complaining about the company, Defense Mobile.
An Army reservist said the company had disabled phone numbers and refused to answer messages from its support website page, email or Facebook. "The service was great until with little warning (24 hours) the company completely dropped their service to ALL their customers (June 30/July 1)," the reservist wrote in an email to Military Times.
The company is in the process of restructuring, said its chief executive officer, Anthony Montoya, who recently took the helm. "The company wasn't doing well. I'm trying to get it on the right track," he said.
He declined to specify how many veterans and service members have been affected.
Montoya said the company lost coverage with some of its carriers.
The company has been providing refunds, and those are being processed through PayPal in generally three to five days, he said. "And our team has been working with folks to switch to new carriers" to port their phone numbers, he said. "We're working with them every day."
Montoya said the best way for customers to get a response is to submit a request online through the company's secure site. On the home page, www.defensemobile.com, click "Support" or "Contact Us" and submit a ticket online. However, on Wednesday, the "Support" page announced, "Note: We are unable to process payments at this time and are working to resolve this issue ASAP."
Defense Mobile has provided refunds to a number of people who bought phones and couldn't activate them, he said. But generally there won't be a lot of refunds for monthly service, he said, because the company had given many people some free months of service.
When it launched a year ago, Defense Mobile billed itself as "the nation's first 4G LTE wireless company focused exclusively on current and former members of the U.S. military and their families, describing "a mission to connect and improve the lives of those who have served."
The company is not selling mobile phone service as the company goes through the transition, Montoya said. "We hope to be back in the market as soon as possible," he said, but there is no timeline.
"It's a challenge," he said. "I too am a veteran. I'm doing everything I can to keep this going in the right direction, to get us back in the market, and live up to our promises.
"It's painful to me we've had to go through this process. I don't want to leave any service member behind."
Karen Jowers covers military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.