California National Guard Said to Have Cheated Veterans Who Worked as Interpreters, Failed to Pay Promised Bonuses

US Army Oath conducted in field. (Photo: Public Domain)

US Army Oath conducted in field. (Photo: Public Domain)

November 14, 2016

Written by Lorra B.

The California National Guard finds itself in the news once again as those enlisted by them come forward with accusations of non-payment.

Last month the California National Guard was in the hot seat when the Pentagon demanded repayment of reenlistment bonuses they gave to almost 10,000 National Guard soldiers as incentive during the height of the Afghanistan and Iraq war 10 years ago.

Now, others are coming forward with accusations of more California National Guard wrongdoings.

In frantic need of interpreters to go with troops to Afghanistan and Iraq, the California National Guard also guaranteed enlistment bonuses to “dozens of Arabic, Dari and Pashto speakers” of up to $20,000 each, according to Tribune News Service. It was called the 09 Lima program.

The Pentagon was so desperate for interpreters in battle that they were utilized whether they were or were not qualified or even if they were in failing health. Now many are complaining of combat injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder and that they can’t work.

As far as the interpreters are concerned, the Pentagon broke their commitments.

Khatchig Khatchadourian, an Arabic interpreter from Los Angeles, stated, “As far as I know, it’s only the interpreters who didn’t get paid. They think we’re stupid because we are immigrants.” The California Guard has not paid Khatchandourian the remaining $10,000 he says is owed him.

According to Col. Peter Cross, a spokesperson, there are 44 interpreters affected by this non-payment.

In an email Cross wrote, “The complexity arose in cases where neither the soldier nor the Guard could locate a copy of any agreement, although work was done by the soldier that likely would have given rise to a bonus payment.”

The Pentagon needed these interpreters in the field as soldiers so that they could not quit or refuse to go into dangerous situations like contractors could. “To meet that goal, the Pentagon in 2006 ramped up the 09 Lima program. It offered special bonuses, eased enlistment standards and even accelerated U.S. citizenship applications for immigrants who agreed to join the Army,” reports Tribune News Service.

Many who were promised bonus, however, were told they were no longer eligible because they had failed some aspect of required recruitment testing, such as the aptitude test or the physical fitness test. Yet, these soldiers were sent to war and performed their duties…they did their time.

The California National Guard and the Pentagon made promises to brave soldiers who put their lives on the line and then ripped then away. The country and the world are watching. If we have no integrity within our military where does this leave us as a country?

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Written by Lorra B.

After a Decade Pentagon Demands Soldiers Who Went to War Return Reenlistment Bonuses

California National Guard Chinooks airlift Marines training in mountain warfare tactics to high elevation landing zones.  (Photo: Public Domain)

California National Guard Chinooks airlift Marines training in mountain warfare tactics to high elevation landing zones.
(Photo: Public Domain)

October 25, 2016

By Lorra B.

Thousands of California Army National Guard Soldiers who were given reenlistment bonuses over 10 years ago are being asked by the Pentagon to give the money back.

Feeling the mounting pressure to enlist soldiers during peak war time, California Guard officials overpaid reenlistees. The Los Angeles Times said that many to the 10,000 soldiers ordered to repay the bonuses served and risked their lives during several combat tours.

“Investigations have determined that lack of oversight allowed for widespread fraud and mismanagement by California Guard officials under pressure to meet enlistment targets,” writes The Los Angeles Times.

Soldiers, however, insist that they reenlisted in good faith and served their times, that now the military wants to renege on their agreements.

The financial burden this would place on these soldiers would be severe.

Christopher Van Meter, a former Army captain, stated, “These bonuses were used to keep people in.” The 42-year-old Van Meter stated that he had to refinanced his home mortgage to repay the “$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,” says the angry Van Meter.

Army Sergeant Robert Richmond said he is not going to pay back his $15,000 bonus, per The Times.

“I signed a contract that I literally risked my life to fulfill,” Richmond said. While in Iraq, Richmond sustained permanent injuries due to a roadside bomb attack.

The Army, however, states that Richmond wasn’t eligible to receive the bonus at the time because he had already served in the Army for 20 years.

Maj. Gen. Matthew Beevers, deputy commander of the California Guard, said that they would be happy to relieve these soldiers of their debts but to do so would be breaking the law.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarther released a statement that the repayments should be waved and that the matter would be thoroughly investigated so that the soldiers involved “are fully honored for their service.”

“It is disgraceful that the men and women who answered their country’s call to duty following September 11 are now facing forced repayments of bonuses offered to them. Our military heroes should not shoulder the burden of military recruiters’ faults from over a decade ago,” he stated. “They should not owe for what was promised during a difficult time in our country. Rather, we are the ones who owe a debt for the great sacrifices our heroes have made – some of whom unfortunately paid the ultimate sacrifice..”

Of the 14,000 California Guard soldiers who received incentive bonuses, 9,700 retired and current soldiers have been informed they are to repay their bonuses. So far the California Guard has recovered $22 million dollars.

It will likely be many years before this issues is put to rest as many soldiers refuse to comply and protests and appeals continue.

By Lorra B