California soldiers who re-enlisted more than a decade ago due to a shortage of troops and received enlistment bonuses for signing up to fight the war in Iraq and Afghanistan are now being told by the Pentagon that they must pay all of the bonuses back, the LA Times reported.
The LA Times stated that 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.
The 10,000 soldiers who have to pay back the bonuses, through no fault of their own, are also being charged interest and are being threatened with wage garnishments and tax liens if they do not repay due to an error by the California National Guard who mismanaged their money while under pressure to meet enlistment-recruiting targets.
The bonuses to be paid back range from $15,000 to as high as $25,000 through no fault of their own, in which several of the soldiers spoke to the LA Times, that because the National Guard [government] screwed up, they are handed a burden that is a slap in many of their faces.
Soldiers stated that 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 and out their lives on the line.
One soldier told the LA Times, “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.”
Another solider told the LA Times, “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 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.
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