A bipartisan group of more than 100 House lawmakers urged the Pentagon on Thursday to find a “permanent solution” to the problem of National Guard troops being asked to pay back reenlistment bonuses they received a decade ago.
“Years after receiving enlistment bonuses, these men and women have been asked to pay back the bonuses they improperly received through no fault of their own,” said the letter, which was led by Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) and signed by 108 lawmakers.
“It is unfair and unacceptable to hold them accountable a decade later,” the letter said.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter on Wednesday announced the Pentagon would suspend efforts to recoup the bonuses from soldiers until a streamlined review and appeals process could be put into place.
The Los Angeles Times reported Saturday that the Pentagon was trying to recoup reenlistment bonuses and other incentives that were paid to nearly 10,000 California National Guard service members a decade ago after an audit found that they were made either erroneously or improperly.
A California National Guard incentives manager pleaded guilty to fraud and was sentenced to 30 months in prison and fined more than $15 million. A one-star general and two colonels were eventually separated from the military after paying restitution and serving probation.
The bonuses, often $15,000 or more, came during a period of difficult recruitment at the height of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. The audit came after a California National Guard incentives manager was found to have approved about 9,600 service members who were later deemed ineligible for the incentives.