Coffman to Push for Veterans to Keep Bonus Money

Iraq War veteran to introduce legislation if Pentagon won’t back down

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Washington, DC, October 24, 2016 | comments
Washington, DC -- U.S. Representative Mike Coffman (CO-06), a Marine Corps Iraq War veteran and member of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel, today called upon the Department of Defense (DoD) and the National Guard Bureau (NGB) to determine if they have the legal authority to waive regulations forcing thousands of National Guard soldiers, primarily in California, to repay reenlistment bonuses issued during the height of U.S involvement in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. If neither the DoD nor the NGB has authority, Coffman is ready to introduce a legislative fix to allow these soldiers to keep their bonuses.
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U.S. Representative Mike Coffman (CO-06), a Marine Corps Iraq War veteran and member of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel, today called upon the Department of Defense (DoD) and the National Guard Bureau (NGB) to determine if they have the legal authority to waive regulations forcing thousands of National Guard soldiers, primarily in California, to repay reenlistment bonuses issued during the height of U.S involvement in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. If neither the DoD nor the NGB has authority, Coffman is ready to introduce a legislative fix to allow these soldiers to keep their bonuses.

“Not only did soldiers accept these reenlistment bonuses in good faith, but these soldiers fulfilled their end of the bargain by serving our country in a time of war,” said Coffman. “I understand that in California many aspects of this program were mismanaged. Those who mismanaged the program unquestionably deserve punishment for their failures, but not the soldiers who, through no fault of their own, accepted these incentives. This is not how the government should treat the soldiers who risked their lives to fight for our country.”

Coffman’s remarks follow a report citing that National Guard soldiers are being forced to repay reenlistment bonuses to DoD.

The problem is particularly acute in California where the LA Times notes, “investigators have determined that a lack of oversight allowed for widespread fraud and mismanagement by California Guard officials under pressure to meet reenlistment targets.”  

These bonuses of $15,000 or more were offered as an incentive to reenlist in the National Guard. Five years ago, an audit revealed that many of the bonuses, mainly issued between 2005-2008, were fraudulently awarded.

The House of Representatives passed a partial legislative fix in the FY17 National Defense Authorization Act by establishing a ten-year statute of limitations on bonus recollection payments, which Coffman supported. However, this amendment is awaiting Senate action and will not fully resolve the problem.

“I call on the DoD and the NGB to immediately review the law and see if they have the legal authority to waive repayment and to refund the monies already collected from these soldiers if they do,” continued Coffman. “If Congressional action is required, I will initiate legislation to provide the necessary waiver authority. These soldiers kept faith with us and now we need to keep faith with them.”

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Tags: Veterans

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