Rep. Schiff Calls on California National Guard to Halt Efforts to Seek Repayment of Enlistment Bonuses, Is Drafting Legislation
Los Angeles, CA – Today, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) called on the California National Guard and the Pentagon to immediately halt efforts to obtain repayment of enlistment bonuses, student loan payments, and other payments granted incorrectly to members of the California Guard. In a letter to Adjutant General of the California National Guard David Baldwin, Schiff pushed the Guard to immediately halt these efforts saying that “seeking reimbursement for these funds when they were accepted in good faith imposes a substantial financial hardship on those who have served our nation and their families.”
In the letter, Schiff also announced that he is working on a legislative remedy for when Congress is back in session in November.
In a statement accompanying the letter, Schiff stated: "The men and women of the National Guard serve our nation well, and they deserve better than being hounded for repayment of enlistment bonuses and other benefits they were mistakenly provided through no fault of their own. These soldiers enlisted during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and frequently served overseas, and we owe them a debt that we can never repay, but we can start by ensuring they are not subject to tax liens or wage garnishments based on the errors of others. Congress can, and I believe will, address this unacceptable situation, and in the meantime the California National Guard should suspend all debt collection activities against these soldiers."
The text of the full letter is below:
Dear General Baldwin:
I request that the California National Guard immediately halt efforts to obtain repayment of enlistment bonuses, student loan payments, and other payments granted incorrectly to members of the California Guard, as discussed in the Los Angeles Times article dated October 22, 2016. The facts detailed in the article are deeply concerning, and suggest that at the very least, Congress must investigate legislative options to provide relief to current and former members of the California guard who are now being required to repay overpayments, in some cases nearly a decade after the bonuses were first issued. Seeking reimbursement for these funds when they were accepted in good faith imposes a substantial financial hardship on those who have served our nation and their families.
According to the article entitled "Thousands of California soldiers forced to repay enlistment bonuses a decade after going to war," as many as ten thousand members of the guard are being required to repay enlistment bonuses and other benefits that were later determined to be provided in error. In some cases, these soldiers are subject to wage garnishments and tax liens, as well as required to pay interest charges.
Simply put, the men and women who serve our nation in the National Guard deserve better. And all the more so for those who enlisted or reenlisted in the midst of two major military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq that stretched our military forces and soldiers to their breaking point. The reward for their bravery and service should be our eternal gratitude and assistance.
It is evident that there were severe failures in financial controls and oversight that allowed overpayments of this magnitude to occur. However, It should not fall to men and women who joined the national guard to serve their country to shoulder the burden of others' mistakes, particular so many years later.
I appreciate your statement released in response to public inquiries stating that though you lack the authority to waive these debts, "the California National Guard welcomes any law passed by Congress" to address the issue. I believe that corrective legislation is possible, and intend to pursue all legislative means to advance a solution. In the meantime, and as Congress conducts a thorough investigation, veterans of the guard and their families should be able to live free from the stress and hardship caused by efforts to collect on these repayments.
I urge you to publicly suspend debt collection while we work towards a resolution that appropriately recognizes the service of these soldiers, as well as addressing soldiers who have already repaid these debts as well as the underlying issues that allowed overpayments to occur and go undetected for years. Thank you for your attention to this issue, and I look forward to your response.
cc: General Joseph L. Lengyel, Chief, National Guard Bureau
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