The Pentagon is demanding thousands and in some cases tens of thousands of dollars back from California soldiers who received enlistment bonuses for signing up to fight for American freedoms in the war on terror. The Pentagon is even demanding pay from enlistment bonuses all way back to a decade ago.
In what can only be described as another insult to American service members, close to 10,000 soldiers are being ordered repay their bonuses and also are being charged for interest charges and are being threatened with wage garnishments and tax liens if they do not repay.
This is due to the Pentagon determining that the California National Guard mismanaged their money while under pressure to meet enlistment recruiting targets.
And now the soldiers are being required to pay. This is seen as a giant slap in the face to service members who risk their lives and family stability while the Pentagon gives billions away in cash, can’t keep track of billions more and is accused of widespread corruption and inflated budgets in the defense contracting industry.
The L.A. Times has interviewed many people about this dramatic burden dropped on service members:
But soldiers say the military is reneging on 10-year-old agreements and imposing severe financial hardship on veterans whose only mistake was to accept bonuses offered when the Pentagon needed to fill the ranks.
“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.”
This demand is an extremely large burden for most of the people and the L.A. Times has gotten a handful of their stories.
Roughly 9,700 current and retired soldiers have been told by the California Guard to repay some or all of their bonuses and the recoupment effort has recovered more than $22 million so far.
Because of protests, appeals and refusal by some to comply, the recovery effort is likely to continue for years.
In interviews, current and former California Guard members described being ordered to attend mass meetings in 2006 and 2007 in California where officials signed up soldiers in assembly-line fashion after outlining the generous terms available for six-year reenlistments.
Robert Richmond, an Army sergeant first class then living in Huntington Beach, said he reenlisted after being told he qualified for a $15,000 bonus as a special forces soldier.
The money gave him “breathing room,” said Richmond, who had gone through a divorce after a deployment to Afghanistan in 2002 and 2003.
In 2007, his special forces company was sent to the Iraqi town of Hillah, 60 miles south of Baghdad in an area known as the “Triangle of Death” because of the intense fighting.