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#1 User is offline   Gertie Keddle 

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  Posted 23 October 2016 - 10:28 AM

Thousands of California soldiers forced to repay enlistment bonuses a decade after going to war
Short of troops to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan a decade ago, the California National Guard enticed thousands of soldiers with bonuses. Now the Pentagon is demanding the money back.
David S. Cloud
LA Times
Excerpt:

Short of troops to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan a decade ago, the California National Guard enticed thousands of soldiers with bonuses of $15,000 or more to reenlist and go to war.

Now the Pentagon is demanding the money back.

Nearly 10,000 soldiers, many of whom served multiple combat tours, have been ordered to repay large enlistment bonuses — and slapped with interest charges, wage garnishments and tax liens if they refuse — after audits revealed widespread overpayments by the California Guard at the height of the wars last decade.

Investigations have determined that lack of oversight allowed for widespread fraud and mismanagement by California Guard officials under pressure to meet enlistment targets.

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.”

In Iraq, Van Meter was thrown from an armored vehicle turret — and later awarded a Purple Heart for his combat injuries — after the vehicle detonated a buried roadside bomb.

Susan Haley, a Los Angeles native and former Army master sergeant who deployed to Afghanistan in 2008, said she sends the Pentagon $650 a month — a quarter of her family’s income — to pay down $20,500 in bonuses that the Guard says were given to her improperly.

“I feel totally betrayed,” said Haley, 47, who served 26 years in the Army along with her husband and oldest son, a medic who lost a leg in combat in Afghanistan.

Haley, who now lives in Kempner, Texas, worries they may have to sell their house to repay the bonuses. “They’ll get their money, but I want those years back,” she said, referring to her six-year reenlistment.

The problem offers a dark perspective on the Pentagon’s use of hefty cash incentives to fill its all-volunteer force during the longest era of warfare in the nation’s history.

Even Guard officials concede that taking back the money from military veterans is distasteful.

“At the end of the day, the soldiers ended up paying the largest price,” said Maj. Gen. Matthew Beevers, deputy commander of the California Guard. “We’d be more than happy to absolve these people of their debts. We just can’t do it. We’d be breaking the law.”

Facing enlistment shortfalls and two major wars with no end in sight, the Pentagon began offering the most generous incentives in its history to retain soldiers in the mid-2000s.

It also began paying the money up front, like the signing bonuses that some businesses pay in the civilian sector.

“It was a real sea change in how business was done,” said Col. Michael S. Piazzoni, a California Guard official in Sacramento who oversaw the audits. “The system paid everybody up front, and then we spent the next five years figuring out if they were eligible.”

The bonuses were supposed to be limited to soldiers in high-demand assignments like intelligence and civil affairs or to noncommissioned officers badly needed in units due to deploy to Iraq or Afghanistan.

The National Guard Bureau, the Pentagon agency that oversees state Guard organizations, has acknowledged that bonus overpayments occurred in every state at the height of the two wars.

But the money was handed out far more liberally in the California Guard, which has about 17,000 soldiers and is one of the largest state Guard organizations.

In 2010, after reports surfaced of improper payments, a federal investigation found that thousands of bonuses and student loan payments were given to California Guard soldiers who did not qualify for them, or were approved despite paperwork errors.

Army Master Sgt. Toni Jaffe, the California Guard’s incentive manager, pleaded guilty in 2011 to filing false claims of $15.2 million and was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison. Three officers also pleaded guilty to fraud and were put on probation after paying restitution.

Instead of forgiving the improper bonuses, the California Guard assigned 42 auditors to comb through paperwork for bonuses and other incentive payments given to 14,000 soldiers, a process that was finally completed last month.

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.

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#2 User is offline   Dean Adam Smithee 

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Posted 23 October 2016 - 10:47 AM

If a soldier improperly claimed a 'bonus' that he/she should have reasonably known they weren't entitled to, then I'm okay with going after them.

But if the fault is with Higher-ups, for giving out what they never should have given out but did so knowingly just to get the numbers up, and the soldiers accepted it in good faith, then I say no harm no foul and let the soldiers keep it ... but prosecute the higher-ups.
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#3 User is offline   USNRETWIFE 

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Posted 23 October 2016 - 02:25 PM

My husband received a re-enlistment bonus during the Carter years and was then told he would have to repay it. Fortunately he could claim hardship if he had to repay it and it was forgiven. It is ridiculous. Their mistake, but the soldier has to repay it, and this time it is years after they received it and it is spent. Bull crap.
My nephew received a $15,000 bonus for re-upping in the SD National Guard. I hope he doesn't have to repay it. The same year my sister received a $15,000 bonus to transfer from her local ag department office to DC, plus a month's rent on an apartment while she looked for a place to live, plus the gov moved them, plus the government bought their house so she didn't have to stay and sell it. And no, she wasn't high up in the ag department. She gave checks to farmers. For that, my sister got to spend 4 years in DC to retire at a higher pension, and my nephew got tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Who should repay any bonuses again?

This post has been edited by USNRETWIFE: 23 October 2016 - 02:33 PM

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#4 User is offline   jr_tex 

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Posted 23 October 2016 - 05:34 PM

Hey, I hear Hillary has a spare $12MM bucks from screwing the Moroccan government. Maybe she can help out.

Wait a minute, I just reread the article. So the CA Nat Guard FRAUDULENTLY gave the soldiers bonuses, they have prosecuted the person(s) who committed the fraud and NOW they are going to make a profit by charging interest on the bonuses paid to innocent recipients AND make a profit on the bonuses? What a f'ing crock.

This post has been edited by jr_tex: 23 October 2016 - 05:41 PM

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#5 User is offline   Bookdoc 

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Posted 23 October 2016 - 05:42 PM

View Postjr_tex, on 23 October 2016 - 05:34 PM, said:

Hey, I hear Hillary has a spare $12MM bucks from screwing the Moroccan government. Maybe she can help out.

Either that or something from the clinton crime foundation's fat coffers...
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#6 User is offline   USNRETWIFE 

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Posted 23 October 2016 - 05:56 PM

View Postjr_tex, on 23 October 2016 - 05:34 PM, said:

Hey, I hear Hillary has a spare $12MM bucks from screwing the Moroccan government. Maybe she can help out.

Wait a minute, I just reread the article. So the CA Nat Guard FRAUDULENTLY gave the soldiers bonuses, they have prosecuted the person(s) who committed the fraud and NOW they are going to make a profit by charging interest on the bonuses paid to innocent recipients AND make a profit on the bonuses? What a f'ing crock.

Who better to tromp on than any branch of the military?
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#7 User is online   moocow 

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Posted 23 October 2016 - 09:17 PM

View PostAdam Smithee, on 23 October 2016 - 10:47 AM, said:

If a soldier improperly claimed a 'bonus' that he/she should have reasonably known they weren't entitled to, then I'm okay with going after them.

But if the fault is with Higher-ups, for giving out what they never should have given out but did so knowingly just to get the numbers up, and the soldiers accepted it in good faith, then I say no harm no foul and let the soldiers keep it ... but prosecute the higher-ups.

Fully agree. If the Re-enlistee took the bonus under reasonable conditions (i.e. it's not a $1M bonus or something no reasonable person could believe true), then he is fully entitled to it. I wonder if there is a civil statute of limitations on this?

To be honest, this is clear fraud on the part of the government (assuming everything was reasonable on the enlistee end). They offered the bonus for a tour of service. If the government later comes and tries to take it back, then it's fraud and acting in bad faith. Seems like a class action lawsuit should be filed.
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#8 User is offline   USNJIMRET 

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Posted 23 October 2016 - 09:30 PM

View Postmoocow, on 23 October 2016 - 09:17 PM, said:

Fully agree. If the Re-enlistee took the bonus under reasonable conditions (i.e. it's not a $1M bonus or something no reasonable person could believe true), then he is fully entitled to it. I wonder if there is a civil statute of limitations on this?

To be honest, this is clear fraud on the part of the government (assuming everything was reasonable on the enlistee end). They offered the bonus for a tour of service. If the government later comes and tries to take it back, then it's fraud and acting in bad faith. Seems like a class action lawsuit should be filed.


I find that I kind of agree.

The bonus was paid to get people to stay and go to war, which worked. People stayed and went to war, and some got injured. (I wonder how many died, and how THAT recoupment is going?)

Final thought, for now...




Doesn't this really put a bit of a unappealing patina on the notion of "All Volunteer" Force, and show more the hallmark of a hired, ie mercenary, force?



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