This is really pretty terrible. If the soldiers had taken these bonuses with the knowledge that they were improper, that is one thing. But it doesn’t look like this is the case. It appears that the California National Guard wasn’t meeting its recruitment targets and so gave out the large bonuses, which were outside of the rules, to make these numbers. Now the Pentagon is trying to recoup these improper bonuses from retired and current military war fighters.
The people who received the bonuses were enlisted folks for whom in most cases repaying $10,000 is probably a colossal challenge. (It would be a colossal challenge for most Americans.) And they must repay because of the unscrupulous dealings of military recruiters not because they did anything wrong? How could this happen? These are people who the military dearly needed at the time (because, among other things the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were unpopular) and that is why the bonuses happened. But now that these people have served their use the military is treating them like this?
Consider that we are talking about a few million dollars, probably less than the cost of one F-35 joint strike fighter.
Also, if a soldier who received a bonus died in the line of duty must their survivors now pay back the money?
One last note. We’ve run many stories over the past 5 years where hundreds of millions and even billions of dollars have been lost by the military to fraud and general waste. Much bigger fish. But the Pentagon is going to financially break a group of enlisted soldiers because they got a few thousand dollars in bonuses that the soldiers thought was simply part of a perfectly legal deal?
(From The LA Times)
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.