appealing the debts is a long process they are not guaranteed to win. “Everything takes months of work, and there is no way to get your day in court,” said retired Army major and Iraq veteran Robert D’Andrea, who was told to repay his $20,000 enlistment bonus after auditors failed to find a copy of the contract he says he signed.
Lawmakers have openly condemned the Pentagon’s actions. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-California) called for a House investigation. “The Department of Defense should waive these repayments, and I will be requesting a full brief from Army and National Guard leadership,” McCarthy said in a statement. “The House will investigate these reports to ensure our soldiers are fully honored for their service. Our military heroes should not shoulder the burden of military recruiters’ faults from over a decade ago. They should not owe for what was promised during a difficult time in our country.”
California Representative Mark Takano (D-Riverside), a member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, called the Californa National Guard’s “effort to claw back bonuses and benefits improperly paid to service members 10 years ago” appalling. “These service members — many of whom were sent into combat — are now being forced to make difficult and painful decisions to pay back thousands of dollars they never knew they owed,” he said. “The solution to this ridiculous situation is an act of Congress.”
In a statement released yesterday, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton slammed the California National Guard and the Pentagon and called on Congress to “act swiftly” to waive soldiers’ debts. “I am appalled that National Guard officials are attempting to recoup money from soldiers who accepted bonuses a decade ago,” she said. “These troops deserve our support and our deepest gratitude; they served admirably and upheld their part of the bargain. It is unacceptable to now subject them and their families to undue financial burdens thanks to mismanagement from the California National Guard and rigid bureaucracy on the part of the Pentagon. We should assist these families in identifying and applying for relief as well establishing an expedited review process. We simply cannot allow this mistreatment of veterans, for any reason.”