Opinion

Forcing war vets to return enlistment bonuses is disgraceful

To the editor: The Pentagon demanding that enlistment bonuses for nearly 10,000 California National Guard soldiers be paid back is yet another instance of us doing wrong by our military. In what other workplace would people be hired, paid an upfront bonusand then be told 10 years later, “Oops, our bad, turns out you weren’t eligible for that bonus; return it now or we will sic our dogs on you”? (“Thousands of California soldiers forced to repay enlistment bonuses a decade after going to war,” Oct. 22)

No, the bill should be sent to the four officers who pleaded guilty to this scheme. Our soldiers upheld their end of the contract, and we’ve reneged on our part of it. When will we get it right and treat our soldiers and veterans with respect? 

I’ve written to my congressman to learn what he is doing to address and correct this; I encourage others concerned about this to write to their representatives as well.

Kathleen V. Williams, Los Angeles

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To the editor: There are private colleges that are failing at an alarming rate, leaving students and ultimately U.S. taxpayers footing the bill. Students at the schools have hundreds of millions of dollars in debt that may be forgiven by the U.S. government. 

So when I read about members of the U.S. military who accepted bonus money in good faith and are now being asked to repay it, I am incensed. A student who got a $25,000 associate degree from a failed private university may get an apology and loan forgiveness, but a soldier who reenlisted and went to war has to get a second mortgage to pay the government back? 

If the law doesn’t allow the the U.S. armed forces to forgive this debt, change the law.

Thomas Sexton, Huntington Beach

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To the editor: There is a reason that 75% of the soldiers who have been told to return their bonus money have not replied or refuse to cooperate: Their jaws are still stuck on the floor from disbelief.

They can’t believe the gall of the government reneging on a written contract — the United States government, trying to undo its promise to those who risked their lives for our country.

Steam is coming out of my ears because of this injustice. I’m surprised Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump hasn’t jumped on this, as he could legitimately get mileage out of a government military program gone wrong.

I know no one in the military, but I know when something is wrong. This is really wrong.

Christine Goonetilleke, Santa Ana

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To the editor: Anyone surprised to learn of more fraud connected to President George W. Bush’s deceitful push to fight a war of discretion?

Several years into that disastrous conflict, our military’s dwindling ranks needed replenishment, so the Pentagon leaned on the California National Guard to recruit more canon fodder. From 2006-08, the California Guard proceeded to sign up some 14,000 enlistees by offering them sizable bonuses, about two-thirds of which were unauthorized. 

In 2010 several Cal Guard officials pleaded guilty to making fraudulent bonus payments. But their convictions haven’t brought full restitution, so the Cal Guard now seeks reimbursement from recruits who unwittingly accepted fraudulent bonuses.

Back off, generals — those soldiers already have paid a high price. Try tapping the generous government benefits afforded Bush and his war-crazed cabal. Their deceit was the ultimate fraud.

Kendra Strozyk, Cameron Park, Calif.

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