Outraged by a report of soldiers being forced to repay enlistment bonuses, U.S. Reps. Mike Coffman (R-CO), Jeff Denham (R-CA) and Michael McCaul (R-TX) called for action to avert the claw backs.
Thousands of soldiers who were paid bonuses of $15,000 or more to enlist or reenlist in the California National Guard at the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been ordered to repay their bonuses, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Coffman, a veteran of the war in Iraq and a member of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel, called on the Department of Defense (DoD) and the National Guard Bureau (NGB) to determine if they have legal authority to waive regulations requiring repayment of the 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,” Coffman said. “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.”
A review found that a lack of oversight led to widespread mismanagement of enlistment bonuses and thousands of bonuses being fraudulently from 2005-2008, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“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,” Coffman said. “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.”
Coffman also supported a provision of the fiscal year 2017 National Defense Authorization Act that would establish a 10-year statute of limitations on recollecting bonus payments.
Those responsible for fraud should be held accountable, Denham added, but not soldiers who enlisted and served their country.
“As a veteran, I find it outrageous that the DoD would demand repayment for serving our country in the armed forces,” Denham said. “While those responsible for illegal actions should be held accountable, these brave men and women earned those enlistment bonuses, and to demand them back at this juncture is a slap at patriotism.”
McCaul, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said he was appalled by reports of soldiers being “swindled” out of their retention and signing bonuses.
“I will look at all legislative options to ensure soldiers who have protected our homeland in times of war do not have to bear the financial burden of repaying bonuses promised to them more than a decade earlier,” McCaul said.