According to the commander of the California National Guard, 4,000 of the 9,700 soldiers that they are trying to take enlistment bonuses back from are nowhere to be found. Last week, the National Guard claimed that thousands of military members who enlisted during the war in Iraq and Afghanistan were given bonuses and are required to return the payments. If they do not do so, they face interest, wage garnishments, and tax penalties.
In a memo obtained by the Los Angeles Times on Monday, Maj. Gen. David Baldwin said the California National Guard needed assistance in finding thousands of soldiers who received what they’re calling “improper bonuses” or other benefits after they enlisted up to 10 years ago during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Though the bonuses were given at the time as incentive to join at the height of the Middle East conflict, a 2013 Inspector General report said that some were “excessive.” Despite Gen. Baldwin acknowledging that these soldiers enlisted “in good faith at a time of war,” their demands to reclaim the bonuses remain.
Officials said that the “missing” soldiers are likely to have retired, changed addresses, moved to other units, or transferred to the Army. An office has been setup in Sacramento for current and former California National Guardsmen to help find the missing soldiers.
It is also reported that through tax returns, the Treasury Department was able to track down some of the 4,000 soldiers a while back and made them repay their bonuses.
American Military News spoke with Brett Sholtis, who got a $2,500 bill in 2015 — eight years after he honorably discharged out of the California Army National Guard.
Christopher Van Meter, an Iraq veteran and former Army Capt., was reportedly ordered to repay $25,000 in bonuses plus another $21,000 in student loan repayments. Van Meter told the La Times that instead of fighting the Government, he opted to refinance his home.
“These bonuses were used to keep people in,” Van Meter said. “People like me just got screwed.”