November 1, 2016
By Lorra B.
The California National Guard stated that of the 9,700 soldiers who received improper military bonuses for reenlistment, approximately 4,000 cannot be located.
Maj. General David Baldwin told the Los Angeles Times that they needed help in locating the soldiers who received the bonuses during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq 10 years ago.
The Treasury Department has indicated that of the 4000 missing troops some have been tracked down “long ago through tax returns and made them repay their bonuses,” reports Fox News.
This fiscal has cause a backlash of huge proportions within the Military and public, the Pentagon on the receiving end of that criticism.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy is less than pleased with this latest scandal and calls the demands for reimbursement “disgraceful.”
Former Capt. Christopher Van Meter, an Iraq Veteran, stated that, “People like me just got screwed. These bonuses were used to keep people in,” the military. Van Meter had no choice but to refinance his home after the Pentagon forced him to repay his reenlistment bonus of $25,000 and his student loan of $21,000.
In 2007 Brett Sholtis left the California Guard. In 2015 he received a letter from the Treasury Department demanding he repay his enlistment bonus of $2,500.79.
Sholtis refused to pay.
What happened next? Sholtis’s wages were garnished and his 2015 federal tax return was taken by the Treasury Department. $320 was taken from his check every month. He was also denied a Veteran’s Affairs home loan due in part to the bonus debt.
Sholtis stated, “I was one of those soldiers who couldn’t be located. They made a weak effort and then immediately proceeded to step two – turning it over to Treasury.”
According to Fox News, “Some guardsmen face serious punishment for not returning their bonuses. Eight current or former members of the California National Guard were indicted in 2014 on federal charges for fraudulently obtaining recruiting referral bonuses.”
To Help find these missing soldiers, a special office has been set up in Sacramento. After all, the deadline to recover all their money is fast approaching.
Defense Secretary Ashton Carter suspended the debt recovery program and ordered a faster appeals process. Carter set a July 1, 2017 cutoff to complete the recovery process.
Though most the 9,700 California Guard soldiers “unknowingly” received improper payments and enlisted “in good faith” it seems the Pentagon is hell-bent on finding them and collecting monies that were intended to be incentives.
With the deadline in sight the Pentagon is doing everything in its power to recover each and every penny, though the hardship to our veterans is immense.
By Lorra B.