Soldiers forced to pay back bonuses get reprieve

1024-california-national-guardSacramento, Calif. โ€“ Thousands of California National Guard veterans who were forced to give back enlistment bonuses they received are now being told they may get to keep their bonus.

In October, thousands were asked to pay back bonuses they received when they re-enlisted in the National Guard.

Many of the bonuses should never have been awarded to begin with, according to government officials.

In 2006, the military was missing its recruitment goals and needed more soldiers to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq. As an incentive to keep soldiers enlisted, the Defense Department starting paying out bonuses to keep the men and women it already had.

Many soldiers thought it was a good deal–thousands re-enlisted. Then, nearly 10,000 of them were told that deal was a crime.

After a Federal investigation, it was discovered enlistment officers were committing fraud. In California, Master Sergeant Toni Jaffe was found guilty of making false claims on behalf of her fellow National Guard members. The illegal payouts were estimated to be around $15.2 million.

After the discovery, the Department of Defense told soldiers they needed to pay back the bonuses.

On Tuesday, November 29th lawmakers reached a deal that allows the Pentagon to forgive enlistment bonuses of $15,000 or more, along with improperly awarded student loan benefits.

“This largely meets the needs of the soldiers who accepted their bonuses in good faith, as the vast majority of them did,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat. “It should give these soldiers peace of mind during the holidays that the Pentagon won’t claw them back.”

NBC News reports the compromise will require the Defense Department to refund any repayments that soldiers have already made.

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