After giving thousands of California soldiers bonuses for re-enlisting in the National Guard, the Pentagon is now asking soldiers to return the money they were paid nearly 10 years ago, according to a new report.
The California Guard's use of monetary incentives in the mid-2000's to boost the declining enlistment rosters while facing two wars enticed almost 10,000 soldiers to reenlist.
The improper payments were caused by a lack of oversight, widespread fraud and mismanagement by Guard officials. Retired guardsman Chris Van Meter calls it "a slap in the face".
The California Guard says they have no choice but to follow the law.
But in the years since, lower-ranking service members have complained about garnished checks and a prolonged review process, saying they've done nothing wrong.
A 2010 investigation discovered that thousands of bonuses and student loan payments were wrongly given to soldiers in the California Guard. About 9,700 current and retired soldiers received notices to repay some or all of their bonuses with more than $22 million recovered so far. Now they are facing interest charges, wage garnishment, tax liens, and other penalties.
It seems that until the Times story broke, soldiers were repaying these debts under the radar.
According to a report by The Los Angeles Times, soldiers are being forced to repay the bonuses as well as student loans they received to help fill the ranks.
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The Pentagon agency responsible for the mishap is the National Guard Bureau, which oversees enlistment bonuses of this type nationwide.
Soldiers said they feel betrayed at having to repay the money.
"The Department of Defense should immediately halt the retrieval of these debts, and when Congress returns in November, I will insist this issue be permanently resolved with language in the National Defense Authorization Act awaiting final passage in both Chambers", Issa wrote in a letter to Carter on Monday.
The affected soldiers can petition to have the debt waived, Defense Department spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said.
"They'll get their money, but I want those years back", she declared. Gen. Matthew Beevers, deputy commander of the California Guard, told the Los Angeles Times.
California senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer urged the Defense Department to use its authority to waive repayment.
"Only 1,200 soldiers have sent the Pentagon appeals asking for forgiveness of some or all of their bonuses and other payments".
"Our military heroes should not shoulder the burden of military recruiters' faults from over a decade ago". California House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy has declared these repayment requirements to be "disgraceful", and he's demanding action: "The House will investigate these reports to ensure our soldiers are fully honored for their service". They stated the reason I was not eligible for the contract was because I had over 20 years of service at the time.