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California Guard Says Bonus Repayments Will Be Resolved by Midsummer

Soldiers of the California National Guard's 40th Infantry Division rehearsing an air assault mission at Fort Hunter Liggett Feb. 8. (Photo: Sgt. 1st Class Benjamin Cossel)
Soldiers of the California National Guard's 40th Infantry Division rehearsing an air assault mission at Fort Hunter Liggett Feb. 8. (Photo: Sgt. 1st Class Benjamin Cossel)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- A top official for the California National Guard told state legislators Monday that he hopes lingering issues from the soldiers being forced to repay enlistment bonuses will be resolved by midsummer.

A Los Angeles Times investigation last year found that the Pentagon demanded thousands of soldiers repay enlistment bonuses up to a decade after going to war in Iraq or Afghanistan.

The claw-back came after audits revealed vast overpayments of bonuses, due in part to mismanagement and pressure to hit enlistment targets. The Times story prompted outcry that soldiers, who were not at fault for accepting the bonuses, were now facing financial hardship.

Matthew Beevers, the deputy adjutant for the California National Guard, told a joint hearing of the Senate and Assembly Veterans Affairs committees that just over 1,000 soldiers currently hold debt due to the bonus recoupment.

Soldiers who are affected by the repayment demand must go through a federal waiver adjudication process, which Beevers described as "unnecessarily long, complex and resource-intensive."

He said the state-run Soldier Incentives Assistance Center was working with those who need to navigate the complex process to get those debts waived.

"(If) you got a bonus and you completed your obligation and for some reason, you weren't entitled to it, we've done everything we can do ensure that those soldiers get to keep those bonuses and we continue to do that today," Beevers said.

Beevers said the state is trying to locate all soldiers who may be carrying debts due to the enlistment bonus. For those who complete the federal adjudication process, around 50 percent get their debts waived, he said.

"At the end of the day, there might be 600 or so soldiers out of 16,000 who might have to pay money, which is a very, very small number," he said.

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