Updates to CA Guard recoupment controversy
Three stories that will update you on this swiftly moving story:
The California National Guard told the state’s members of Congress two years ago that the Pentagon was trying to claw back reenlistment bonuses from thousands of soldiers, and even offered a proposal to mitigate the problem, but Congress took no action, according to a senior National Guard official.
The official added that improper bonuses had been paid to National Guard members in every state, raising the possibility that many more soldiers may owe large debts to the Pentagon.
“This is a national issue and affects all states,” Andreas Mueller, the chief of federal policy for the California Guard, wrote in an email to the state’s congressional delegation Monday. Attention had focused on California because it was “the only state that audited” bonus payments at the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he added.
Top-level Pentagon officials are exploring ways to potentially waive the debts imposed upon more than 10,000 military reservists after the California National Guard sought to force the veterans to repay generous recruitment bonuses that were fraudulently awarded a decade ago.
“This has the attention of our leadership, and we are looking at this to see what we can do to assist,” Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said Monday. “We take doing right by our service members very seriously, and the senior leadership of this department is looking very closely at this matter.”
"It is disgraceful that the men and women who answered their country's call to duty following September 11 are now facing forced repayments of bonuses offered to them,” said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., in a statement Sunday.
“Our military heroes should not shoulder the burden of military recruiters' faults from over a decade ago. They should not owe for what was promised during a difficult time in our country.”
Fellow California Rep. Loretta Sanchez, a Democrat who serves on the House Armed Services Committee, called the news shocking and unacceptable.
"I have reached out to both the California National Guard and the Pentagon for an explanation into this matter,” she said in a statement. “It is important that we address this issue immediately. Many veterans cannot afford to be billed by the country they gave years of their life to protect.”