Seemingly overnight, the United States became aware that some of our nation’s military has been being treated unfairly. Veterans that served in Iraq and Afghanistan war are being forced to return the bonuses that they were given when they re-enlisted. Re-enlistment was heavily depended on in 2006 to quickly fill positions that were high in demand during the war. This caused for soldiers to be approached with the promise of a signing bonus to keep them on the force.
These bonuses were given up front for intelligence personnel and non-commissioned officers as long as they would serve in the foreign wars if they re-enlisted.
As early as 2010, the first reports were made in California about the funds that were given out. These reports revealed that some of the people that received them were unqualified. Others were approved when they shouldn’t have been. This is affecting soldiers across the nation that received signing bonuses nearly a decade ago.
For instance, some of these soldiers had their student loans forgiven or received overly large bonuses. While most of these funds came out of the California Guard, it is affecting soldiers across the nation. The military is demanding bonuses and other funds to be returned. The California Guard completed the process of going through 14,000 soldier’s paperwork in regards to the bonuses and re-enlistment funds that they may have received. They have since told 9,700 soldiers that their incentives need to be returned.
The Pentagon is asking for the funds to be returned along with interest and a processing fee. So far $22 million has been collected.
Soldiers that served their country in war and risked their lives after being promised these re-enlistment bonuses are now suffering at home. Some have had to take out mortgages on their homes just to begin to pay back their loans. Others are expecting to default on payments while some are experiencing a garnishment from their wages. More have turned to the Defense Department for help, but they have been rejected instead.
Now Ash Carter, the Defense secretary, has finally responded to the appeals that have been made by all the soldiers that are being affected. For now, the demand for payment has been rebuked. The debt that these soldiers have now may not be wavered and relief may not come but efforts will be made to make Congress address the situation.
For relief and debt forgiveness to occur, Congress would need to authorize it. Soldiers are now relying on Congress to fix this problem.