A Pentagon effort to recoup enlistment bonuses for thousands of California National Guard soldiers over a decade since they served in Iraq and Afghanistan has earned widespread condemnation, and lawmakers are calling for the Pentagon and Congress to waive their debts.
The Pentagon demands repayment of bonuses which reached $15,000 or more. California Guard recruiters gave the bonuses out between 2006 and 2008 when the National Guard faced a shortage of troops to fight two unpopular wars. The Pentagon conducted a federal investigation in 2010 which found that thousands of bonuses and student loan payments were improperly given out to California National Guard soldiers. (Army Master Sgt. Toni Jaffe, the California National Guard's Bonus and Incentive manager was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison after pleading guilty in 2011 to filing $15.2 million in false claims.) About 9,700 current and retired soldiers received notices to repay some or all of their bonuses. Soldiers who refuse to pay face "interest charges, wage garnishments and tax liens," according to one report. The federal government has recovered $22 million thus far.