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California: 10,000 Nat’l Guard Soldiers Forced to Repay Enlistment Bonuses

California: 10,000 Nat’l Guard Soldiers Forced to Repay Enlistment Bonuses

“They’ll get their money, but I want those years back”

The members of the California National Guard are awesome.

These soldiers are on the frontlines of the huge wildfires this state frequently experiences. They have been called upon to deal with the riots and civil unrest that sometimes plague our cities. They have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan during our “War on Terror”.

Now, the Pentagon is asking the men and women to repay enlistment bonuses they received.

Short of troops to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan a decade ago, the California National Guard enticed thousands of soldiers with bonuses of $15,000 or more to reenlist and go to war.

Now the Pentagon is demanding the money back.

Nearly 10,000 soldiers, many of whom served multiple combat tours, have been ordered to repay large enlistment bonuses — and slapped with interest charges, wage garnishments and tax liens if they refuse — after audits revealed widespread overpayments by the California Guard at the height of the wars last decade.

Investigations have determined that lack of oversight allowed for widespread fraud and mismanagement by California Guard officials under pressure to meet enlistment targets.

But soldiers say the military is reneging on 10-year-old agreements and imposing severe financial hardship on veterans whose only mistake was to accept bonuses offered when the Pentagon needed to fill the ranks.

Perhaps the Petnagon now needs the money for transgender training sessions and battle-ready climate change measures?

The soldiers are feeling as if they just got shot with fiscal friendly fire.

“These bonuses were used to keep people in,” said Christopher Van Meter, a 42-year-old former Army captain and Iraq veteran who was awarded a Purple Heart. “People like me just got screwed.”

Van Meter said he refinanced his home mortgage to repay $25,000 in re-enlistment bonuses and $21,000 in student loan repayments that the military says was improperly given to him.

The payback is taking a large chunk of income from many middle-class families.

Susan Haley, a Los Angeles native and former Army master sergeant who deployed to Afghanistan in 2008, said she feels betrayed. She said she sends the Pentagon $650 a month — a quarter of her family’s income — to pay down her debt to the military.

“They’ll get their money, but I want those years back,” said Haley, who served for six years.

California Guard officials indicated that they are helping soldiers and veterans file appeals with agencies that can erase the debts. However, there are no guarantees that the debt will be forgiven.

Retired Army major and Iraq veteran Robert D’Andrea said he was told to repay his $20,000 because auditors could not find a copy of the contract he says he signed.

D’Andrea appealed and is running out of options.

“Everything takes months of work, and there is no way to get your day in court,” he said. “Some benefit of the doubt has to be given to the soldier.”

Bryan Strother, a sergeant first class from Oroville north of Sacramento, has filed a class-action lawsuit in February in federal district court in Sacramento on behalf of all soldiers who got bonuses. The suit asked the court to order the recovered money to be returned to the soldiers and to issue an injunction against the government barring further collection.

Shortly after that filing, lawyers for U.S. Atty. Phillip A. Talbert in Sacramento petitioned the court to dismiss Strother’s lawsuit, on the basis that it was moot because his debt had been waived. A federal judge plans to rule on this by January.

I wish Strother good luck. Many in our government now seem more inclined to dish out social justice instead of the real kind.

Our soldiers get many intense lessons on battlefield tactics. Too bad they did not receive similar lessons on legal battle strategy when dealing with the government that they served.

[Featured image via California National Guard on YouTube]


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legacyrepublican | October 23, 2016 at 2:41 pm

Notice Gov. Moonbeam isn’t stepping up to the plate and saying that the state will honor their soldiers and help repay the bonuses.

That would be, like, totally fair!

    MattMusson in reply to legacyrepublican. | October 23, 2016 at 3:23 pm

    Democrats don’t like the Military. They are probably snickering behind closed doors.

    Mr. Trump should get out in front of this thing RIGHT NOW.

    If nothing else, addressing THIS would be big. All he has to do is come out and say:

    “I WILL honor the agreements made to our fighting men and women that when they were promised signing bonuses that I will not demand they be repaid. The men and women who CHOSE to reenlist at the urgent request of the Military, and CONTRACTUALLY agreed to receive certain bonuses for doing so should not be punished for expecting the United States to carry it’s part of the contract after it’s agents made the deal.”

They would never ask for the money back if these were wrongly paid welfare cheques to illegal aliens.

    Milhouse in reply to BillyHW. | October 23, 2016 at 3:10 pm

    Actually they do. All the time. It’s not reported because it’s not news, it’s the way it’s always worked.

      if it’s not reported how do you know it’s a fact???

      tom swift in reply to Milhouse. | October 23, 2016 at 4:45 pm

      It’s not reported because it’s not news

      They don’t let you out much, do they?

      Actually, Milhouse IS correct. The welfare offices routinely DO demand that illegal aliens who have wrongly received benefits pay them back, and sometimes even sue them for judgments on the payments.

      Unfortunately most of those demand letters and judgments are worth exactly the pieces of paper they are printed on, because the illegal aliens are Judgement-Proof. The only thing to be done is to not pay them anymore.

      SOMETIMES you can get them for criminal fraud, but those are few and far between.

        healthguyfsu in reply to Chuck Skinner. | October 23, 2016 at 6:59 pm

        Beat me to it.

        What little Milly fails to honestly disclose is that liberal governments only actually punish honest, law-abiding, tax-paying citizens. People who have nothing to take back can only take more with their hands out.

        This is a scummy dummy statement even for him.

Subotai Bahadur | October 23, 2016 at 3:25 pm

They cannot draft people into the National Guard. Nor can they force them to re-enlist. The government is going to depend on the National Guard to enforce order in case of riots, or civil disorders.

Spread the word about this. Let them have a recruiting problem for the California National Guard. It is not like they will be used for defending the country.

Humphrey's Executor | October 23, 2016 at 3:29 pm

Meanwhile we send pallet loads of cash to the regime that attacked many of those troops with IEDs. Sickening.

Henry Hawkins | October 23, 2016 at 3:34 pm

IMO the feds can dun the CA state government for allegedly not managing the bonus payouts well, but leave the vets alone. That seems such a no-brainer that it appears this is another Obama admin effort to demoralize and weaken the military, the state Nat’l Guards this time. Despicable lame dick behavior.

PS: “Perhaps the Petnagon now needs the money for transgender training sessions and battle-ready climate change measures?”

LOL. That tickled me. Good’n.


Isn’t there a reputed billionaire who could step up and handle all this with his money, and his wonderful deal-making? Why, he could talk the feds down to some reasonable compromise, and pay it off with his pocket change.


    Not cool, Rags. Even in sarcasm.
    A.) Private citizen not responsible for the government not controlling it’s agents (Respondeat Superior anyone?); and
    B.) Contract law suggests there is no reason for the soldiers to negotiate anyway if the soldiers have fully performed to the letter of their contracts. The United States Government is simply “in breach” by demanding repayment and should recover from their AGENTS who signed/approved the contracts on behalf of the Military.

    But, as above, Mr. Trump SHOULD be out there hammering this on the campaign trail every single day until election day as a support for the Military. Force Sec. Clinton out there to guarantee she’ll overturn this policy of the government by hammering it, and having all the surrogates hammer it day-in-and-day-out.

      Ragspierre in reply to Chuck Skinner. | October 23, 2016 at 6:55 pm

      A) Yeah. But…T-rump!!! Nothing is beyond him!; and

      B) I agree. But, still, it’s the G, brother.

      There is no bar or even impediment to my suggestion.

        True. Mr. Trump is a private individual and he is free to spend his monies however he sees fit, and if he were to see fit to step into the Government’s shoes he is free to do so.

        If we weren’t talking about the Government here, he could probably provide the money to the soldiers and then claim a 3rd party aggrieved status in a lawsuit. Effectively “buy” their claim by fully compensating the individuals involved, then prosecute it himself, turning the soldier from a party to a witness.

    VaGentleman in reply to Ragspierre. | October 23, 2016 at 6:39 pm

    A TX lawyer could join him pro bono. Any takers?

      Ragspierre in reply to VaGentleman. | October 23, 2016 at 6:57 pm

      I’d be happy to help, but it would not be pro bono.

      Besides, who needs lawyers when you have the power of Arte d’Deal…???

        healthguyfsu in reply to Ragspierre. | October 23, 2016 at 7:04 pm

        Never thought I’d see the day when you sound like a liberal. Generosity for thee but not for me.

          Ragspierre in reply to healthguyfsu. | October 23, 2016 at 7:08 pm

          Hey, if there’s a GOFUNDME that’s started, I’m all over it!


          If I’m involved in a lawsuit against the Feds, you damn betcha I want to be paid!

I would have said, as a non-attorney, that they couldn’t do this. Evidently they can, however. Is there any evidence that the National Guard personnel knew the amounts paid to them were illegal? Did they somehow commit fraud? If the CA government made errors, and the Guard people performed to the contracts that were offered them, it’s the CA taxpayers who should be on the hook, not the individuals.

And it’s hard to take even that line, given a federal administration that is handing out illegal money to insurance companies to prop up the ACA.

    Of course the CAN. They’re the Government. They’re here to “help” you.

    In all seriousness, there’s a difference between ~power~ and ~right.~ The federal government (executive branch) has the ~power~ to do pretty much anything it damn well pleases. It’s only told that it doesn’t have the ~right~ to do so by either the Legislature cutting off it’s funding or the Judiciary telling it that it’s actions are illegal (and ONE of these days, the Executive is simply going to tell the Judiciary to go take a long walk off a short pier).

    Then, joy of joys, we’ll have fully devolved into a 3rd rate Banana Republic dictatorship.

      Rick the Curmudgeon in reply to Chuck Skinner. | October 23, 2016 at 11:07 pm

      I seem to remember reading how the U.S. government, with the assistance of Majors Patton and Eisenhower, dealt with some other veterans over a bonus-related manner.

      Rick the Curmudgeon in reply to Chuck Skinner. | October 23, 2016 at 11:11 pm

      Comments bot seems to have eaten my previous entries.

      I seem to remember reading how the U.S. government, with the assistance of Majors Patton and Eisenhower, dealt with some other veterans over a bonus-related manner.

Well, if I were a lawyer, and I’m not, I would argue that the re-enlistment contract signed by the soldiers were based on the bonus existing. I’m certain the contracts said so- I signed two of them in the Navy. So, the re-enlistments therefore are null and void, and the soldiers are entitled to per diem for every day they were forced to serve on active duty after their initial term of service expired. Enlistments CAN be involuntarily extended under extenuating circumstances, if announced beforehand. But not after the fact.

Heard stories of one enterprising young sailor who everyone assumed was going to reenlist who was taken to sea with0out doing so. On the 3rd day of a 72 day spec-op, the yeoman noted his contract was expiring the next day. He didn’t re-enlist. Until after returning to port and receiving 2 months of per diem. Figured he wasn’t in a specialty that entitled him to a bonus, but gamed the system for a fatter paycheck.

Two things, one way to destroy a nation is to have every individual despairing of everyone else.

The second is to destroy the cohesion of the patriots in the military. Good guys get out thugs sign up.

Don’t stop counseling the young to sign up. We need the people that will refuse to fire on their fellow citizens when the progs are ready to dispense with the Constitution.

Another Democrat-run government not honoring its word. How usual.

Will they try to collect from those who died in service? Sorry, silly question.

    Likely. It’s simply a claim against the estate. Right now, the Obama administration doesn’t care how it looks. They’re going to leave it as a mess for the next President to figure out.

    Doing damage to military moral is a feature, not a bug.

    the other rob in reply to VaGentleman. | October 23, 2016 at 6:48 pm

    That was one of my first thoughts, too. As shameful as the actions described are, many would think that going after the widows and orphans of dead war heroes would call for tar and feathers at the very least. If not hemp and a lamppost.

ScottTheEngineer | October 24, 2016 at 2:15 am

Hang on a tic. IF they offered up to 15,000.00 Why is that dude paying back 21,000? That’s 15K plus 21K?
The government made a contract and needs to honor it. If your bank puts 10 grand in your bank account and you spend it does that mean the banks out 10K? Hell no. You pay that money back. Someone made a mistake issuing double or triple payments but you don’t get to keep it. He knew it was a mistake when he got the money.

    No. You misunderstand the nature of the story. Let me attempt to clarify:

    Soldiers approximately 10 years ago were in short supply due to the deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Turkey, you name it. The military was short-handed and in order to get individuals to re-enlist, it began paying “signing bonuses.”

    The California recruiters for National Guard military enlistment began to not be able to meet their recruitment goals, so the California Guard recruiters began to offer bigger bonuses without approval from the Pentagon, and fudged numbers so that re-enlistees would be eligible for certain ADDITIONAL benefits (like college loan repayments) without consulting with the enlistees. The recruiters simply played with the numbers and benefits until they got to the number the soldier wanted. If it was a high-demand or high-danger field, the demanded number would sometimes be astronomical.

    The enlistees, thinking all was on the up-and-up, signed on for another go-around. Only NOW, 10+ years later, they’re being told “hey, you know that ‘bonus’ that was the difference between you agreeing to come back and telling us to go take a hike? Yeah, well it wasn’t authorized, so we want it back!”

    There was/is literally no way for the enlistee to have known that the bonus wasn’t approved by the Pentagon, and they’re only now finding out about the recruiter’s fraud, AFTER they have performed fully their side of the Contract.

    To put it in commercial terms, it’s kind of like what Wells-Fargo just went through: Sales guys couldn’t make unreasonably high targets, so the Sales guys simply cheated by taking money out of the Federal Piggy-Bank and waiving it at leaving individuals. Unfortunately, the Feds noticed it was gone, and are trying to get it back.

    The Feds SHOULD be going after the recruiters. They’re not.

    But the Soldiers should ALSO be going after the recruiters for theft, theft of services, fraud, misrepresentation, Deceptive Trade Practices, and a whole host of other civil remedies. It should be something like a 3rd-party defense (if I’m liable to you, THEY’RE liable to me in like amount).

      ScottTheEngineer in reply to Chuck Skinner. | October 24, 2016 at 7:46 am

      That puts a different spin on things. Thanks for the clarification. If that’s the case I agree, The feds should be going after the recruiters and make good on their promises.

      Rick the Curmudgeon in reply to Chuck Skinner. | October 24, 2016 at 11:52 am

      “You want the money back? Fine. Give me my years back and we’ll call it Jake.”