Congress knew for at least two years about Pentagon efforts to take back bonuses from veterans
The California National Guard told the state’s members of Congress two years ago that the Pentagon was trying to claw back reenlistment bonuses from thousands of soldiers, and even offered a proposal to mitigate the problem, but Congress took no action, according to a senior National Guard official.
The official added that improper bonuses had been paid to National Guard members in every state, raising the possibility that many more soldiers may owe large debts to the Pentagon.
“This is a national issue and affects all states,” Andreas Mueller, the chief of federal policy for the California Guard, wrote in an email to the state’s congressional delegation Monday. Attention had focused on California because it was “the only state that audited” bonus payments at the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he added.
In the email, Mueller reminded members of Congress that the Guard had informed them about the issue two years ago. Whether members of Congress understood the scope of the problem at the time is unclear.
The Times reported Saturday that the Pentagon has been demanding repayment of enlistment bonuses — which often reached $15,000 or more — from thousands of California Guard soldiers, many of whom had served multiple combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Audits completed last month concluded that 9,700 California Guard members were not entitled to the payments or that there had been errors in their paperwork.
Pentagon officials acknowledged Monday that the problem probably extends beyond California.
“We know that the majority [of cases] is out of California. However, there may be other states involved,” said Laura Ochoa, a Pentagon spokeswoman. “We do not have a list of those states at this time.”
“The senior leadership of the department is looking very closely at this matter,” Ochoa said. “We take doing right by our service members very seriously.”