Soldiers Forced to Repay Enlistment Bonus Years After Going to War-Truth!
Summary of eRumor:
California National Guard soldiers have been ordered to repay enlistment bonuses a decade after deploying to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan.
About 10,000 California National Guard soldiers have been ordered to repay enlistment bonuses of $15,000 or more after audits revealed widespread overpayments.
The Los Angeles Times broke the news on October 22nd in a story appearing under the headline, “Thousands of California Soldiers Forced to Repay Enlistment Bonuses a Decade after Going to War,” that reports:
Nearly 10,000 soldiers, many of whom served multiple combat tours, have been ordered to repay large enlistment bonuses — and slapped with interest charges, wage garnishments and tax liens if they refuse — after audits revealed widespread overpayments by the California Guard at the height of the wars last decade.
Investigations have determined that lack of oversight allowed for widespread fraud and mismanagement by California Guard officials under pressure to meet enlistment targets.
But soldiers say the military is reneging on 10-year-old agreements and imposing severe financial hardship on veterans whose only mistake was to accept bonuses offered when the Pentagon needed to fill the ranks.
The Pentagon began offering enlistment and reenlistment bonuses as soldier levels dropped as wars in Afghanistan and Iraq wore on with no end in sight. The bonuses were paid up-front, and the National Guard Bureau has found that overpayments occurred in every state at the peak of the two wars, according to the report:
Army Master Sgt. Toni Jaffe, the California Guard’s incentive manager, pleaded guilty in 2011 to filing false claims of $15.2 million and was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison. Three officers also pleaded guilty to fraud and were put on probation after paying restitution.
Instead of forgiving the improper bonuses, the California Guard assigned 42 auditors to comb through paperwork for bonuses and other incentive payments given to 14,000 soldiers, a process that was finally completed last month.
Roughly 9,700 current and retired soldiers have been told by the California Guard to repay some or all of their bonuses and the recoupment effort has recovered more than $22 million so far.
Because of protests, appeals and refusal by some to comply, the recovery effort is likely to continue for years.
It’s not clear whether or not the Department of Defense will follow through on forcing the soldiers to repay their bonuses. U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) called on Defense Secretary Ash Carter to outline steps to correct the mistakes without penalizing veterans, and he also called on legislators negotiating the National Defense Authorization Act to insert language that specifically prohibits forcing soldiers to repay enlistment bonuses.