By November 14, 2016 0 Comments Read More →

Pentagon Demands Soldiers to Repay Illegal Cash Bonuses

Many soldiers "owe" $15,000 or more to the Army.

Many soldiers “owe” $15,000 or more to the Army.

Soldiers of the California Army National Guard (Guard) who received cash bonuses years ago to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan are now being forced by the Pentagon to return those cash bonuses. The soldiers who are involved say the military is backing out of old agreements and imposing severe financial hardships on those whose only mistake was to accept the bonuses.

A Pentagon audit showed  the Guard had overpaid many soldiers while trying to fill its enlistment goals during the two wars a decade ago. Almost 10,000 soldiers were incorrectly told that they were eligible for the bonuses of $15,000 or more. Years later they were instructed to return the bonuses. If they refuse to repay the bonuses, they are liable to interest charges, wage garnishments, and tax liens for what the Pentagon described as “unpaid delinquent debt.” More than $22 million has been recovered.

Some vets repaid the money rather than fight the Army, often taking out loans to do so. One of them said, “Those bonuses were used to keep people in. People like me just got screwed.”

One vet, who suffered permanent injuries in an Iraq roadside bomb attack, has refused to repay his $15,000 bonus. According to the Army, this vet was ineligible for the bonus because he had already served 20 years in the army.

The deputy commander of the Guard said, ”We’d be happy to absolve these people of their debts. We just can’t do it. We’d be breaking the law.” The Guard worked with Congress to clear the debts of the soldiers who were inaccurately told that they were eligible for the bonuses.

Federal prosecutors say the Guard’s former Bonus and Incentive Manager pleaded guilty to knowingly giving out $15.2 million in bonuses and student loans to soldiers who were ineligible to receive them. For misappropriating funds, she was sentenced to 30 months in prison. Three other officers have also pleaded guilty to the fraud. One general and two colonels were fired; and more than 100 other soldiers were punished following the incident.

Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter has ordered the Pentagon to suspend efforts to collect payments, and appointed the top personnel official at the Pentagon to assess the situation and develop a process to resolve all of the cases by July 2017.

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