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Nearly 10,000 California NG soldiers forced to repay enlistment bonuses a decade after going to war

by David S Cloud - LA Times

22-Oct-2016 - Short of troops to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan a decade ago, the California National Guard enticed thousands of soldiers with bonuses of $15,000 or more to reenlist and go to war.

Now the Pentagon is demanding the money back.

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.

“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. “People like me just got screwed.”

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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. ...

Read full story on LATimes.com

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This is outrageous! No wonder recruitment is at an all time low. Disgusting.

What a crock! They want to recoup from the brave men and women who signed up to give to the illegal aliens jamming the system in that corrupted state. This country would be better off if Cali fell into the ocean.

The United States military deserves better than this, they answered the call, pay them. CH Ron

Update 26-Oct-2016 - NPR reports Defense Secretary Ash Carter has ordered the Pentagon to "suspend all efforts to collect reimbursement from affected California National Guard members" until he's satisfied that the process has become more efficient and fair. Carter went on to say "Ultimately, we will provide for a process that puts as little burden as possible on any soldier who received an improper payment through no fault of his or her own. At the same time, it will respect our important obligation to the taxpayer." ... yeah, riiiight - only now is he concerned when called out <snort> Hopefully someday all these debts for servicemembers nationwide will be waived since it's not just Cali.

Ash didn't have a choice. Sometimes you just have to thank God for social media.

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