Why Is Obama's Defense Department Clawing Back Cash Bonuses From Wounded Veterans?

Easy answer. They are people unable to defend themselves and they are part of a constituency Obama would happily tell to DIAF.

This is the background. Ever since the first sovereign tried to put men in uniform, and keep them there during time of war, without resorting to outright coercion, there have been bonuses. The phrase “taking the King’s shilling” refers to a potential recruit taking a portion of his enlistment bonus in advance. In 2004-2005 the US military faced a manpower crisis as the systems that had been engineered to bring in young men and woman with the promise of attaining marketable skills and money for college teetered under the pressure of a nation trying to fight two wars. The solution was cash. Lots of it. Many of the mass reenlistment ceremonies pictured at the time had as much to do with soldiers receiving large bonuses, like in the tens of thousands of dollars, in a combat zone which made them tax free. As it turned out there were abuses and now the piper is demanding payment. Ironically, the piper is also the institution that permitted the abuses so now combat veterans, many of them wounded in action and disabled, are being forced to make restitution of money they accepted in good faith.


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.

Weak men under pressure are liable to do most anything. And like most tragedies involving the federal government it started out with noble intentions:

The problem offers a dark perspective on the Pentagon’s use of hefty cash incentives to fill its all-volunteer force during the longest era of warfare in the nation’s history.

Even Guard officials concede that taking back the money from military veterans is distasteful.

“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.”

The bonuses were supposed to be limited to soldiers in high-demand assignments like intelligence and civil affairs or to noncommissioned officers badly needed in units due to deploy to Iraq or Afghanistan.

The National Guard Bureau, the Pentagon agency that oversees state Guard organizations, has acknowledged that bonus overpayments occurred in every state at the height of the two wars.

But the money was handed out far more liberally in the California Guard, which has about 17,000 soldiers and is one of the largest state Guard organizations.

In 2010, after reports surfaced of improper payments, a federal investigation found that thousands of bonuses and student loan payments were given to California Guard soldiers who did not qualify for them, or were approved despite paperwork errors.


And now the very institution that authorized the illegal payments is demanding that soldiers, not the people who knowingly broke the rules, bear the burden:

“These bonuses were used to keep people in,” said Christopher Van Meter, a 42-year-old former Army captain and Iraq veteran from Manteca, Calif., who says he refinanced his home mortgage to repay $25,000 in reenlistment bonuses and $21,000 in student loan repayments that the Army says he should not have received. “People like me just got screwed.”

In Iraq, Van Meter was thrown from an armored vehicle turret — and later awarded a Purple Heart for his combat injuries — after the vehicle detonated a buried roadside bomb.

Susan Haley, a Los Angeles native and former Army master sergeant who deployed to Afghanistan in 2008, said she sends the Pentagon $650 a month — a quarter of her family’s income — to pay down $20,500 in bonuses that the Guard says were given to her improperly.

“I feel totally betrayed,” said Haley, 47, who served 26 years in the Army along with her husband and oldest son, a medic who lost a leg in combat in Afghanistan.

Haley, who now lives in Kempner, Texas, worries they may have to sell their house to repay the bonuses. “They’ll get their money, but I want those years back,” she said, referring to her six-year reenlistment.

As Rudyard Kipling observed over a century ago, a nation’s relationship with its soldiers is transactional and the value is directly related to the danger a nation feels:


For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an` Chuck him out, the brute! ”
But it’s ” Saviour of ‘is country ” when the guns begin to shoot;

This is shameful. The Secretary of Defense and the chief of the National Guard Bureau could had halted this nonsense at any time and requested Congress to pass an official relief bill… something that is being done now. But they didn’t because they calculated they could go after individual soldiers, men and women who had borne the burden of battle, for restitution of bonus money they were foolish enough to take.


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