Nearly 10,000 California veterans must pay back hefty reenlistment bonuses they earned a decade ago when they signed up to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Pentagon has ordered.
Many of the California National Guard soldiers received more than $15,000 to reenlist in the mid-2000s, when the country was struggling to fill the force as two overseas wars raged on, the Los Angeles Times reported.
But Pentagon investigations determined the California Guard handed out bonuses too liberally...And instead of forgiving the overpaid soldier, many of whom served multiple tours of duties overseas in exchange for the funds, the California Guard has asked for the cash back.
Pres. Obama, please FORGIVE the debt of our military veterans for these bonuses. Demanding repayment is unjust.
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