October 24, 2016 – Today, Congressman John Garamendi (D-Fairfield, Davis, Yuba City), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, announced a series of efforts to protect nearly 10,000 soldiers from attempts by the Department of Defense to reclaim the enlistment bonuses they were paid upon reenlisting during our nation’s wars Iraq and Afghanistan.
“These brave men and women signed up to serve our country, and believed that the country would have their back in return,” said Garamendi. “It is beyond my comprehension that our veterans are being forced to repay the bonuses that they have relied on. I will do everything in my power to require the Department of Defense and the California National Guard to allow our veterans to keep the money they were promised. If the Pentagon says this requires a change to the law, then let’s change the law.”
“Bottom line: our veterans should not pay the price for mistakes that were made by recruiters. I am authoring legislation today to prevent the Department of Defense from seeking to force our veterans to pay back these bonuses, and I am publicly urging the National Guard Bureau, the Department of Defense, and Office of Management and Budget to get a head start by granting waivers on any erroneously paid enlistment bonuses that fall within their authority,” Garamendi continued.
The Department of Defense claims that they are required by law to seek to reclaim bonuses that were paid in error or through misrepresentation. Garamendi’s first legislative fix involves amending the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 as follows:
“None of the funds authorized to be appropriated in this act may be used to recoup any monetary incentive or associated interest issued for the purpose of recruitment or reenlistment given to any member of the National Guard of any state between January 1, 2006 and December 31, 2008.”
This language would put a halt to the recoupment of incentive payments until a permanent solution can be implemented. Garamendi is continuing to investigate the legal barriers and mechanisms which led to this misguided policy and will pursue every avenue to ensure that Guardsmen are better protected in such matters going forward.