I’m normally one of the first on board when the government comes up with ways to cut down on waste fraud and abuse, but we may have finally found a subject where Uncle Sam should be looking the other way. In fact, this is the type of preposterous story that can get your blood boiling. The Pentagon is trying to crack down on veterans who were “improperly paid” bonuses during the big post-9/11 recruitment drive. (Fox News)
The Pentagon is seeking to recover decade-old reenlistment bonuses paid to thousands of California Army National Guard soldiers to go fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Los Angeles Times reported Saturday.
The paper reported that nearly 10,000 soldiers, many of whom risked their lives during multiple combat tours, have been ordered to repay the cash bonuses after audits revealed widespread overpayments by California Guard officials under pressure to meet enlistment targets at the height of the wars 10 years ago.
But soldiers say the military is reneging on old agreements and imposing severe financial hardship on those whose only mistake was to accept the bonuses.
We’re not talking small amounts of money here and the process involved for receiving it has never been crystal clear. Back when I was in the service they were already offering bonuses for re-upping in certain skill groups and they only became larger after 9/11. The paperwork for them was considerable and I can honestly say that many of us probably didn’t read it all that closely when it came time to fill out all your forms. As to the amounts, they are citing sums of five, ten or fifteen thousand dollars for some National Guard members. Another guy in this story was billed for a $25K bonus and another $21K in student loans which were covered for him.
If we were talking about soldiers who had fraudulently worked out a way to game the system, grab a large check and disappear into the night then we should definitely be going after the money and probably pushing fraud charges. But that’s not what’s going on in any of the cases listed here. This was a mistake made by the military. Or if there was intentional misconduct it was on the part of the recruiting officials who offered the men and women bonuses which they may not have been entitled to, but they didn’t know that at the time. Having been told they were eligible and taking the money while agreeing to another hitch during a time of war, it seems that all of them should be entitled to keep the cash. God only knows they’ve earned it.