We, as a country, must support our military. The government is forcing some military members to repay thousands of dollars for reenlistment bonuses (cash, student loans) that were overpaid 10 years ago. This act is financially crippling to military families. Such an enormous financial burden should not be put on the individuals whom rendered services as agreed upon, by serving tours of duty during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The government entities responsible for the overpayments should instead be held financially responsible. These military members earned their bonuses!
Response to Petition
Thank you for adding your name to this We the People petition, and for your concern for the men and women who defend our country. As Secretary of Defense, I have no greater responsibility than to care for our men and women in uniform. That's why last week, in keeping with that obligation, I implemented a series of steps to ensure fair treatment for thousands of California National Guard soldiers who may have received incentive bonuses and tuition assistance improperly as a result of errors, and in some cases, criminal behavior by members of the California National Guard.
There are processes in place that military members can use to ask for relief when, like the California National Guard members in this situation, the government seeks repayment of improper payments. But in California, those processes were moving much too slowly and imposing too many burdens on service members.
So, on Oct. 26, I ordered a suspension of all efforts to collect repayments from affected California Guard members, effective as soon as possible. I also ordered the Pentagon’s top personnel official to establish a streamlined, centralized process that ensures fair and equitable treatment for our service members and the rapid resolution of these cases. That process will offer “one-stop shopping” to service members, so they don’t have to go through multiple agencies to seek help. The new procedures will be in place by Jan. 1, 2017, and the goal is to have all cases resolved by July 1, 2017. I won’t lift the suspension of collection efforts until I am satisfied that the new process treats our men and women in uniform fairly.
While some service members may still be required to repay their bonuses, depending on the circumstances of their individual case, I have directed that this new process should give the benefit of the doubt to the service member. The process we’re setting up will allow us to review the cases of all California Guard members affected by this situation, including those who have already repaid money.
I hope these changes will earn your support – and, even more importantly, help California National Guard soldiers who are caught in this situation.
Secretary of Defense