Several years ago, the California National Guard awarded thousands of soldiers with bonuses to reenlist. The Pentagon is now requesting that money be returned.
The LA Times reports, thousands of soldiers have been ordered to repay enlistment bonuses — and are facing interest charges, wage garnishments and tax liens if they refuse.
Government investigations determined that lack of oversight allowed for fraud and mismanagement by California Guard officials under pressure to meet enlistment targets, according to the LA Times report.
Soldiers say the military is now imposing financial hardships on veterans who accepted bonuses when they were offered, years ago.
“These bonuses were used to keep people in,” said Christopher Van Meter, a 42-year-old former Army captain and Iraq veteran from Manteca, Calif., who says he refinanced his home mortgage to repay $25,000 in reenlistment bonuses and $21,000 in student loan repayments that the Army says he should not have received.
According to the LA Times, Guard officials concede that taking back the money from military veterans is distasteful.
“At the end of the day, the soldiers ended up paying the largest price,” Maj. Gen. Matthew Beevers, deputy commander of the California Guard told the LA Times. “We’d be more than happy to absolve these people of their debts. We just can’t do it. We’d be breaking the law.”
The bonuses were only suppossed to go to soldiers in high-demand assignments or to noncommissioned officers for units due to deploy to Iraq or Afghanistan. But in 2010, a federal investigation found that thousands of bonuses and student loan payments were given to California Guard soldiers who did not qualify or were approved despite paperwork errors.
Roughly 9,700 current and retired soldiers have been told by the California Guard to repay some or all of their bonuses.
H/T LA Times