Why California Guard Members Are Being Asked To Repay Bonuses
Nearly a decade ago, when the United States military was in need of fresh faces and higher recruitment totals, it promised bonuses to soldiers who reenlisted. Unfortunately, those same California guard members are now being asked to repay those same bonuses promised to them years ago. It's a complicated, and unfortunate situation for many, especially given that many are now incurring interest on those repayment totals and being told they give it all back.
According to The Los Angeles Times, thousands of soldiers were given bonuses of $15,000 or more to reenlist – and now, years later, the Pentagon is asking for that money back. Apparently, the current situation is a result of prior mismanagement by California Guard officials, who were under pressure to enlist soldiers, as reported by CNN.
The California Guard released the following statement to the news outlet, writing,
As CNN reported, retired Master Sgt. Toni Jaffe, the California Guard's incentive manager, pleaded guilty in August 2011 to "making a false claim against the United States," according to a statement released by the FBI. Jaffe was sentenced to 20 months in federal prison for submitting $15.2 million dollars in false and fraudulent claims, the statement read.
I am shocked by the actions of the Pentagon and the California National Guard against our veterans in Californiahttps://t.co/vS5omnPuFL— Loretta Sanchez (@LorettaSanchez) October 24, 2016
Apparently, a good number of soldiers took up the bonus offer, but as it turns out, were not actually eligible for the bonus. And now they're paying the price. As the Times reported, thousands of veterans have been ordered to repay the enlistment bonuses, with additional interest charges to the Defense Department.
"These bonuses were used to keep people in,” Christopher Van Meter, a former Army captain and Iraq veteran from Manteca, California told The Los Angeles Times. "People like me just got screwed.”
A number of California elected officials have spoken out against the repayment. California Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer have released a combined statement urging the Defense Department to waive the repayment, CNN reported:
Our servicemembers and their families shouldn't have to pay the price for the mistakes of others. https://t.co/9s6C6K7QBD— Sen. Barbara Boxer (@SenatorBoxer) October 24, 2016
Jeff Davis, a spokesperson for the Defense Department, told CNN that the military only has the authority to "waive individual repayments on one by one basis."
Over on Twitter, users erupted in anger over the fact that veterans were being forced to repay these decade-old bonuses:
Thousands of soldiers forced to pay back enlisted bonus. As a veteran I feel this is the worst our DOD had done to our veterans. pic.twitter.com/e3nJr1BJ3O— Antonio Arnold (@AntonioA5LINX) October 24, 2016
OMFG!!! VETERANS WHO REENLISTED FOR 15.000 DOLLAR BONUS ARE ASKED TO GIVE IT BACK WITH INTEREST. INTEREST IS CRAZY HIGH!— PROUD-DEPLORABLE (@WilliamDNewton) October 24, 2016
Veterans shouldn’t be forced to repay their bonuses. This AM I sent a letter SecDef asking to halt bonus clawback https://t.co/jRrjTgtsUh— Darrell Issa (@DarrellIssa) October 24, 2016
What is going on at the pentagon? How are you trying to make Veterans repay a bonus they received 10 years ago.... wtf America— ɢᴏʀᴇ ᴡʜᴏʀᴇ (@madammortuus) October 25, 2016
Why in the FUCK are you taking money from veterans that was a reenlistment bonus? $25,000 isn't easy to pay back when you're 40— Derek Russell (@Derek_Russell21) October 25, 2016
According to CNN, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, who is also opposed to the repayment, had this to say about the situation: