California National Guard On Enlistment Bonus Scandal: ‘We’ve Done Everything We Can’
The deputy adjutant of the California Army National Guard (CAARNG) told state legislators he was attempting to resolve issues from an enlistment bonus scandal by mid-summer, according to a Los Angeles Times report.
The Times reported last year that thousands of CAARNG soldiers were told to repay their enlistment bonuses, some of which stretched back nearly a decade, after an internal audit found that many of the soldiers were overpaid. The overpayments were due in part to mismanagement and pressure from recruiters to reach enlistment goals.
“[If] you got a bonus and you completed your obligation and for some reason, you weren’t entitled to it, we’ve done everything we can do ensure that those soldiers get to keep those bonuses and we continue to do that today,” said deputy adjutant Matthew Beevers at a joint hearing of the Senate and Assembly Veterans Affairs committees.
The scandal sparked public outcry from both service members and lawmakers alike, reasoning that many soldiers who were overpaid through no fault of their own — and were forced to pay them back — could face financial difficulties. By some estimates, over one thousand soldiers currently hold a debt because of the bonus repayment.
According to Beevers, the state of California, which provides funding for its National Guard soldiers, was still trying to locate the soldiers who are still carrying a bonus-related debt. About 50% of those who complete the federal adjudication process, which he described as “unnecessarily long” and “complex and resource-intensive,” are expected to have their debts waived.
“At the end of the day, there might be 600 or so soldiers out of 16,000 who might have to pay money, which is a very very small number,” Beevers said.