Thousands of Army soldiers are being forced to repay as much as $20,000 in some cases in enlistment bonuses that were issued over a decade ago when the California National Guard was offering substantive bonuses in order to fill their ranks to meet obligations for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The Pentagon is claiming that in many cases, the enlistment bonuses paid to soldiers was far more than it was supposed to be. Basically it was a clerical error, and now our nation’s soldiers are left to foot the bill.
Some soldiers are even reported being threatened with interest charges, penalties and wage garnishments if they don’t promptly make arrangements to pay back the funds.
According to the Los Angeles Times:
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.
“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.”
“I feel totally betrayed,” said Haley, 47, who served 26 years in the Army along with her husband and oldest son, a medic who lost a leg in combat in Afghanistan.
“At the end of the day, the soldiers ended up paying the largest price,” said Maj. Gen. Matthew Beevers, deputy commander of the California Guard. “We’d be more than happy to absolve these people of their debts. We just can’t do it. We’d be breaking the law.”