Arlington, VA – House and Senate negotiators have agreed to block the Pentagon from clawing back the enlistment bonuses from roughly 10,000 soldiers in California – many of whom served multiple combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In October, it was revealed that thousands of California veterans were being ordered to repay enlistment bonuses given to them by the Pentagon more than ten years ago. If the veterans were unable to pay back the money, the Pentagon planned to use interest charges, wage garnishments, and tax liens to recoup it.
Negotiators included the resolution in the form of a provision in the annual defense policy bill requiring the Pentagon to waive the recoupment of a bonus unless there is evidence showing service members “knew or reasonably should have known” that they weren’t eligible to receive the money. A vote in the House on the must-pass defense bill is expected by Friday, followed by action in the Senate next week.
Concerned Veterans for America (CVA) Executive Director Mark Lucas issued the following statement:
“This situation revealed a lot about the embarrassingly flawed priorities of bureaucrats in Washington. The government would rather take back money from American heroes who deserve it than from bad VA employees who don’t. If the Pentagon needs to claw back money in the future, they should look no further than VA, which awarded itself $177 million in taxpayer-funded bonuses last year despite horrific performance issues.
“We applaud Congress’ move to prevent the Pentagon from stealing back bonuses given to American heroes. In the future, Congress must work to prevent Pentagon waste, fraud, and abuse from ever affecting American veterans again.”
Shortly after backlash from the media in October, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced that the DOD Finance and Accounting Service team would suspend efforts to take back bonuses from California National Guard veterans until Carter was “satisfied that [the] process is working effectively.” Carter asserted that as of January 1, 2017, a “streamlined, centralized process” will be adapted and that by next July – nine months from now – he hopes that the decision-making process on all cases will be resolved.