Full Coverage: Pentagon pushes to make California veterans pay back bonuses
California lawmakers in the House and Senate offered legislative proposals Thursday that would allow nearly 10,000 California National Guard soldiers to keep improper enlistment bonuses they were paid during the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan a decade ago.
When the California National Guard desperately needed interpreters to accompany troops headed to Iraq and Afghanistan, it promised enlistment bonuses of up to $20,000 each to dozens of Arabic, Dari and Pashto speakers.
The California National Guard can’t locate more than 4,000 of the 9,700 soldiers caught up in the military enlistment bonus scandal that has rocked one of the nation’s largest Guard organizations, according to its commander.
A decade ago, when the Pentagon was desperate for troops to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, the California National Guard enticed thousands of soldiers to enlist or re-enlist with bonuses of $15,000 or more.
For the last three years, retired California National Guard Master Sgt.
Moving to quell widespread criticism, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter on Wednesday ordered the Pentagon to suspend efforts to claw back enlistment bonuses improperly given to thousands of California National Guard members during the height of the Iraq war.
President Obama has told the Defense Department to expedite its review of nearly 10,000 California National Guard soldiers who have been ordered to repay enlistment bonuses improperly given a decade ago, but he is not backing growing calls for Congress to waive the debts, the White House said Tuesday.
A decade ago, the Pentagon wrongly awarded substantial bonuses to thousands of people to induce them to enlist in the National Guard.
The California National Guard told the state’s members of Congress two years ago that the Pentagon was trying to claw back reenlistment bonuses from thousands of soldiers, and even offered a proposal to mitigate the problem, but Congress took no action, according to a senior National Guard official.
Lawmakers on Sunday condemned a Pentagon effort to recoup enlistment bonuses improperly paid to thousands of California National Guard soldiers a decade ago, saying the overpayments were not the soldiers’ fault and calling on the Pentagon or Congress to waive their debts.
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.