Pentagon orders thousands of soldiers to pay back enlistment bonuses

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Thousands of California National Guard soldiers are being ordered to repay a combat bonus they received more than a decade ago after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the Pentagon wants nearly 10,000 soldiers to repay the money after audits showed the California National Guard improperly offered them the re-enlistment bonuses.

4 Fast Facts

  • California National Guard soldiers ordered to pay back enlistment bonus
  • The soldiers received a bonus of $15,000 or more
  • The Pentagon said the bonuses were improperly handed out
  • Soldiers could face penalties if they don’t pay back the money

The bonuses—$15,000 or more—were offered upfront to soldiers much like a signing bonus. They were supposed to be limited to soldiers who were given high-demand assignments in intelligence and civil affairs or to noncommissioned officers needed in units set to deploy to Iraq or Afghanistan.

“It certainly hurts the credibility going forward if we can’t depend on the promises that were made to us when we volunteered to put our life on the line,” retired Commander Francis McVey of the U.S. Navy told CBS Los Angeles.

If they don’t return the money, soldiers could face interest charges, wage garnishments or even tax liens.

A spokesperson said the California National Guard doesn’t have the authority to unilaterally waive the debts. However, the Guard would welcome “any law passed by Congress to waive the debts,” CBS Los Angeles reported.