It was about ten years ago that the military made an offer to soldiers in the California National Guard. Between 2006 and 2008, the Pentagon was in need of soldiers to go and fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. So the military offered reenlistment bonuses for those who signed up again. The soldiers were signing up for another six years. In exchange, they would receive bonuses of $15,000 or even more. Now, the military says that many of those soldiers were not eligible to receive the bonuses. And the soldiers have to give back their reenlistment bonuses.
The Pentagon Used Signing Bonuses to Boost Reenlistment
When the Pentagon made the offer to give each soldier a bonus in order to motivate them to reenlist, many took the deal. In 2006 and 2007, soldiers signed on for another six years of duty in war zones. They received their bonus at the time they signed. Now, almost ten years later, they find themselves with the military asking for the money back. The reason that the Pentagon is claiming is that the soldiers shouldn’t have gotten the bonuses in the first place. The situation affects about 10,000 soldiers and the amount of money that the Pentagon seeks to recuperate is around $20 million.
Susan Haley is one of the soldiers that have to give back their reenlistment bonuses. She is 47 and has served in the Army for 26 years. Haley is now in a situation where she owes $20,500. A situation that she didn’t want to be in and didn’t seek out herself. She says she feels betrayed by the military.
“Totally betrayed, that’s how I feel. I didn’t knowingly accept money I wasn’t supposed to have. They wanted me to reenlist, and I was assured everything was fine.”
Said Susan Haley.
10,000 Soldiers Have to Repay Reenlistment Bonuses
The former master sergeant received the first collection letter in 2012. It said that she had improperly received “a signing bonus to reenlist” and that she now had to give all the money back with interest. If she did not do that, she would be “in violation of federal law”. Susan Haley, who served in Afghanistan, was shocked at the news. Since then, she has been struggling to pay back her debt to the Pentagon. She pays $650 a month in an effort to extinguish the debt. But it is difficult for her and she is worried the family might lose their home.
“I haven’t paid yet this month. I don’t have the money.”
Said Susan Haley.
Former master sergeant Susan Haley is just one of the stories in this situation. There are other 9,700 soldiers from the California National Guard that are struggling to repay the reenlistment bonuses. They find themselves struggling to repay a debt that they did not want to have. At the time they signed, the soldiers thought that they were legitimately getting a signing bonus for reenlisting. Even officials in the military say that the soldiers didn’t actually do anything wrong.
The California National Guard has offered assistance to around 1,200 guard members who filed appeals to the Pentagon. They are asking for the military to forgive some or all of the military debt that they owe.
A spokesman for the Pentagon said that “the senior leadership of the department is looking very closely at this matter.”
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