Following Letter from Congressman Ami Bera, Dept. of Defense Calls for End Bonus Recoupment for California Veterans
Elk Grove – Today, following a letter from Congressman Ami Bera, M.D. (CA-7) the Department of Defense called for an end to the National Guard’s recoupment of bonuses from California veterans. In a story that was first uncovered by The Sacramento Bee (LINK) with recent developments from the Los Angeles Times (LINK), almost 10,000 California National Guard soldiers were ordered to pay back enlistment bonuses received as many as ten years after signing up to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan. Congressman Bera contacted the Department of Defense and the National Guard to halt this recoupment from soldiers who served their country in good faith and are now being held responsible for a fraudulent scheme carried out by California National Guard officials to meet enlistment goals.
“I’m glad that Secretary of Defense Carter saw what I saw, that the National Guard’s harsh bonus recoupment on thousands of California veterans was unfair, and put a stop to it,” said Congressman Bera. “As a doctor who’s cared for veterans, I’ve seen firsthand their sacrifices for our country and the extent to which they will work to keep all Americans safe. These soldiers completed the service obligations in exchange for these benefits, so I’m glad the Department of Defense has done the right thing by announcing those who served should not be required to pay back these benefits and is working to fix the process."
Congressman Bera has championed veterans’ causes in Congress, including fighting for more transparency at the VA. In Sacramento County, Bera’s office has held several resource workshops and career fairs specifically for veterans, and has helped more than 1,700 Sacramento County veterans with their government issues, returning over $1.9 million in owed benefits to veterans and their families.
The text of Congressman Bera’s letter is below:
The Honorable Ash Carter
U.S. Department of Defense
Washington, DC 20301
General Joseph L. Lengyel
National Guard Bureau
111 South George Mason Drive, AHS2
Arlington, VA 22204
Dear Secretary Carter and General Lengyel,
As you are aware, recent reports have found thousands of California National Guard members are being ordered to repay enlistment benefits many years after receiving them. I write today to urge the Department of Defense to immediately suspend the repossession of these benefits.
Thousands of Californians enlisted or reenlisted to serve their country under an agreement that provided financial incentive payments. An investigation and subsequent audit found that many of these benefits were improperly awarded and those found responsible for awarding these bonuses were held accountable for their actions. There is no excuse for fraud within our government. However, soldiers who served our country should not be penalized for the mistakes of others.
These soldiers volunteered to fight for our country and were promised these benefits and students loan repayments for their service. Men and women who have bravely served our nation should be able to keep the benefits that were earned in good faith. Recouping these benefits, in some cases a decade after the bonuses were issued, places these service members in an unfair and difficult financial situation through no fault of their own.
Although Congress must take long-term action to investigate and solve this problem at a national level, I urge the Department to halt the collection of these bonuses at this time to prevent placing more service members in financial hardship.
I appreciate your attention to this issue and I ask that you take quick action to stop this unfair collection. I look forward to hearing from you about this important issue.
Ami Bera, M.D.
Member of Congress