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California Guardsmen Ordered to Pay Back Bonuses: Report

Members of the California National Guard stand in formation before undertaking operations on California's Southern border on Sept. 17, 2010. (Photo by Jessica Inigo/California National Guard)
Members of the California National Guard stand in formation before undertaking operations on California's Southern border on Sept. 17, 2010. (Photo by Jessica Inigo/California National Guard)

The U.S. Defense Department is ordering almost 10,000 one-time National Guardsmen from California to pay back enlistment bonuses, according to a news report.

Many of the veterans have to pay back the bonuses, totaling as much as $15,000 or more, or face such penalties as interest charges and tax liens, according to an article published Saturday by David Cloud, a reporter for The Los Angeles Times.

Like other branches of service, the Guard used enlistment bonuses to entice more people to enter the ranks a decade ago during the U.S.-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, California Guard officials were found guilty of mismanaging the program.

Indeed, eight current or former members of the California National Guard in 2014 were indicted on federal charges for fraudulently obtaining recruiting referral bonuses, according to The Associated Press.

Veterans say they feel "betrayed" by having to return money for an error that wasn't their fault, The Los Angeles Times reported.

SpouseBuzz: Will you have to repay a military bonus, too?

Military.com has also heard similar stories from readers.

One former service member was enticed by a $10,000 bonus to leave the Reserves and join the California National Guard as a military police member for a deployment to Iraq in 2009.

"I served two years in Iraq and then came home in 2011 to find out the CA ARNG did not have the correct paperwork and I was required to pay back the bonus," the individual wrote to Military.com's Paycheck Chronicles blog in 2014.

"Here is the rub," the individual continued, "They took $3,000 out for taxes but I had to pay back the full $10,000. How do I get that $3,000 back? The CA ARNG says it is not their problem. I have to work with the IRS. This does not sit well with me as they took out that money!"

The person was encouraged to consult a tax professional.

California Guard officials have pledged to work with veterans who wish to file appeals to the National Guard Bureau and the Army Board for Correction of Military Records to wipe out the debts, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Other parts of the Defense Department have mismanaged similar bonus programs.

Earlier this year, the Pentagon's bomb squad team was saddled with debt due to an accounting error. One member of the team committed suicide. The department agreed to forgive the debt after Military.com and The Washington Post reported on the case.

--Brendan McGarry can be reached at brendan.mcgarry@military.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Brendan_McGarry.

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