Iraq, Afghanistan veterans told to repay enlistment bonuses

Members of the Kentucky National Guard.
(Image credit: Gary Williams/Getty Images)

A decade ago, thousands of soldiers re-enlisted with the California National Guard, then facing a shortage of troops and two wars with no end in sight; they signed up for six years with the promise of upfront bonuses starting at $15,000. Now, nearly 10,000 of those men and women have been told by the Pentagon they received the money erroneously, and must pay it back immediately or face interest charges, tax liens, and wage garnishments.

The generous bonuses were slated for soldiers in high-demand assignments like intelligence and for noncommissioned officers needed in units set to deploy to Afghanistan and Iraq, the Los Angeles Times reports. An investigation that began in 2010 finished just last month, with audits finding that in all 50 states, soldiers who did not qualify for bonuses received them. In California, the money flowed more than in any other state, with 9,700 current and retired soldiers told to pay some or all of their bonuses back. So far, $22 million has been collected. "At the end of the day, the soldiers ended up paying the largest price," said Maj. Gen. Matthew Beevers, deputy commander of the California Guard. "We'd be more than happy to absolve these people of their debts. We just can't do it. We'd be breaking the law."

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Catherine Garcia, The Week US

Catherine Garcia is night editor for Her writing and reporting has appeared in Entertainment Weekly and, The New York Times, The Book of Jezebel, and other publications. A Southern California native, Catherine is a graduate of the University of Redlands and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.