GOP urges Pentagon to immediately return bonuses clawed back from vets

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) urged the Pentagon on Tuesday to return reenlistment bonuses to California National Guard veterans who were forced to repay them a decade later after an audit showed that many of them were issued erroneously.  

{mosads}Issa sent a letter to the Pentagon demanding that it immediately reimburse veterans who accepted the bonuses in good faith and have paid back those bonuses. 

“The Guards’ own inept actions and lack of oversight created this debacle.  The government has instead forced many of our war-fighters to deplete their life savings, take on more debt by refinancing their homes, and ruined their credit,” Issa said in a letter to Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Peter Levine. 

“You have a duty to make the victims whole without delay, which includes compensation for all applicable interest fees and penalties.  As such, the Department of Defense must clear these debts and assist with all service member issues related to invalidate the debts,” he wrote. 

Defense Secretary Ash Carter last Wednesday ordered the Pentagon to suspend collection of the bonuses, after an audit showed that almost 10,000 California National Guard members were erroneously paid reenlistment bonuses about a decade ago. 

The move came after mounting pressure from Congress. The Los Angeles Times reported that many of the troops who accepted bonuses at no fault of their own were being aggressively pursued by debt collectors and threatened with wage garnishments, tax liens and interest charges. 

Carter also directed Levine to establish a new process to help troops who accepted the bonuses in good faith adjudicate their cases and seek reimbursement if they had already paid back the bonuses. 

“Though the Department of Defense agreed to suspend further collection efforts last week, the Department still has not put forth a plan for returning monies to soldiers who’ve already unfairly repaid them,” the statement from Issa’s office said. 

The National Guard Bureau, which oversees each state’s National Guard, said it found cases in every state where bonuses were paid erroneously, but so far has not identified those states or exactly how many cases there are outside of California. 

“If this continues my congressional colleagues and I will act to compel and force you to honor your commitments, just as the soldiers honored theirs. I respectfully request a detailed, substantive, and realistic solution to be delivered promptly,” Issa wrote.


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