The National Guard needed members to reenlist; the war was raging and they needed experienced professionals. They began offering bonuses of $15,000 or more depending on the guard member’s MOS.
Many accepted the bonuses, only to find out a decade later, the Pentagon would demand the money be returned because of fraudulent reenlistment practices, according to the LA Times.
The Times reported that nearly 10,000 soldiers accepted the bonuses to reenlist, many of those risking their lives again after fighting in previous combat deployments. The government is not only asking for the money back but is making it worse by adding tax liens, heavy interest, and garnishing wages if members don’t agree to pay back the money immediately.
An audit of the California Guard brought to light the fraudulent bonuses where most if not all of the service members were innocent participants. The California Guard and its 17,000 members was where the majority of the money was improperly distributed according to the news piece.
Four California Guard service members were charged with filing false claims. “Army Master Sgt. Toni Jaffe, the California Guard’s incentive manager, pleaded guilty in 2011 to filing false claims of $15.2 million and was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison. Three officers also pleaded guilty to fraud and were put on probation after paying restitution,” says the Times.
After a decade and discovering the fault lied within the Guard, many agree that the guardsmen and women who signed up and served faithfully should have their debt forgiven as they held up their end of the contract.
Instead, the Pentagon is going after the money, 9,700 current and retired soldiers in fact, and they are being told to repay some or all in part of their bonuses; an effort that has brought in $22 million so far.
Most are complying with the repayment demands and are refinancing their homes, but a few have filed lawsuits against the government.
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