Napolitano’s Statement on Defense Department Ordering Repayment of Bonuses
(Washington, DC) Today, Rep. Grace F. Napolitano (D-El Monte) issued the following statement after nearly 10,000 California National Guardsmen were ordered to repay bonuses and student loan repayments given to them as an incentive to reenlist during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan:
“It is unconscionable the Defense Department is demanding repayment from our brave soldiers after they answered our nation’s call and honorably served. This is not the fault of the servicemembers, and they should not have to worry about this now. We should be assisting our veterans and their families in every way possible through job assistance and training, improved health and mental health services, and housing, not asking more from those who made incredible sacrifices to keep us safe.
“When Congress resumes next month I pledge to work with all of my colleagues to fix this problem. In the meantime, the Defense Department should stop the demand for repayment immediately. It is unfair to California veterans and their families, and we must do everything we can to rectify this situation.”
In the mid-2000s, the Defense Department began offering over $15,000 in bonuses and student loan repayments to retain soldiers as they faced two ongoing wars and a need for troops. Although California has become the focal point of this issue due to the sheer size of its National Guard program, the Defense Department says that this is problem in every state.
About 9,700 California Guardsmen have been ordered to repay these bonuses; many have been charged interest and threatened with tax liens if they refuse. The repayments are part of a federal program run by the National Guard Bureau and the Department of the Army. The California National Guard has stated that they want to forgive these debts, but they are prohibited by federal law.
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