Guard, Pentagon Cannot Say How Many US Soldiers Must Repay Bonuses

news

The National Guard and Pentagon on Friday still could not say how many soldiers in the United States might have their wartime re-enlistment bonuses reclaimed, despite claiming days ago that cases outside of California only number “in the dozens.”


A Pentagon spokesman said the Defense Department had not finished compiling the figures from all states and territories. The chief of the National Guard Bureau, which promised Wednesday to release the number of affected soldiers to Stars and Stripes, said Friday that it was still working to compile the information.

Both have said the efforts to recollect bonuses of $15,000 or more and education benefits from soldiers are mostly confined to California.

The Army National Guard caused public outrage earlier this week when reports revealed it might reclaim the re-enlistment bonuses of nearly 10,000 soldiers from California who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. More than 100 House members wrote a letter Wednesday saying the National Guard has confirmed bonus overpayments occurred in every U.S. state and called for legislation to provide relief.

Peter Levine, acting undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, said Wednesday the number of cases in other states are “in the dozens” but did not specify how many states.

“This is a California problem for us,” he said.

The Pentagon on Friday could not immediately reconcile Levine’s comment with its lack of specific numbers.

The National Guard Bureau told Stars and Stripes on Friday that it had reviewed a statistical sampling of 9,641 cases of bonus payments across the country but did not have additional statistics of how many included fraudulent or wrongly awarded bonuses or benefits.

“The issues found were administrative in nature and rapidly remedied by the state,” according to Maj. Shannon Thomas, a Guard spokeswoman.

Thomas said the service needs more time to compile figures showing wrongly paid bonuses and how many soldiers face collections.

Gen. Joseph Lengyel, chief of the National Guard Bureau, said Wednesday the service examined the bonuses in every state and had determined the number of incorrect payments was small.

“I can tell you they did look at every state … they did find some contracts were dispersed erroneously. There were small numbers and I can get you those numbers,” Lengyel told Stars and Stripes.

A National Guard spokeswoman said Friday it still had not compiled the figures for release.

The Pentagon on Wednesday temporarily halted the repayment of bonuses for California National Guard soldiers after outcry from veterans groups and Congress. The bonuses and education benefits were aimed at bolstering troop numbers during the wars. Defense Secretary Ash Carter ordered a review of the repayments by January and said he wants all California cases resolved by July.

But the issue of other soldiers outside California being forced to repay the bonuses remains an open question.

A lax nationwide system of checks at the National Guard led to fraud and overpayment of the bonuses, Lengyel said Wednesday.

“At the time we had delegated authority to give bonuses to all the individual states. And we realized at the time, hey, we need to have greater oversight,” Lengyel said Wednesday. “Before 2012, you could actually give away the money without having all the documentation in place to prove the people were entitled to it. It’s not possible anymore.”

Audits in 2012 uncovered fraud and overpayments. In California, the National Guard said the cases of overpayment stemmed from a single person who was prosecuted. Lengyel said the authority to approve bonuses was also moved up to the National Guard Bureau, instead of resting at state-level guard units.

“We have fixed this issue in California with regard to the bonuses,” he said.

———

©2016 the Stars and Stripes. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo by Spc. Karen Kozub
Navy photo.

The Navy has identified the missing sailor from the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln as Aviation Electronics Technician 2nd Class Slayton Saldana, who was assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 5, with Carrier Air Wing 7.

Read More Show Less
(Reuters/Nick Oxford)

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The U.S. Air Force has suspended paying incentive fees at all 21 military housing bases operated by landlord Balfour Beatty Communities following a Reuters-CBS News report that the company falsified maintenance records at an Oklahoma base to help it qualify for millions of dollars in bonuses.

Read More Show Less
(U.S. Marine Corpss/Staff Sgt. Bryan Nygaard)

The wait is over: the Marine Corps's brand new sniper is officially ready for action.

The Mk13 Mod 7 sniper rifle reached full operational capacity earlier this year after extensive testing, Marine Corps Systems Command announced on Wednesday. Now, the new rifle is finally available in both scout snipers and recon Marine arsenals.

Read More Show Less
(Reuters/Lisi Niesner)

DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran announced on Monday it had captured 17 spies working for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and sentenced some of them to death, deepening a crisis between the Islamic Republic and the West.

Iranian state television published images that it said showed the CIA officers who had been in touch with the suspected spies.

In a statement read on state television, the Ministry of Intelligence said 17 spies had been arrested in the 12 months to March 2019. Some have been sentenced to death, according to another report.

Read More Show Less
Photo by: Christoph Hardt/Geisler-Fotopres/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images.

One of the few things that aggravates your friend and humble narrator more than hazelnut flavored coffee is Soviet apologists.

Case in point: A recent opinion piece in the New York Times claims the Soviet space program was a model for equality, noting the Soviets put a woman into space 20 years before NASA when Cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova orbited the Earth in 1963.

"Cosmonaut diversity was key for the Soviet message to the rest of the globe: Under socialism, a person of even the humblest origins could make it all the way up," wrote Sophie Pinkham just in time for the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

Read More Show Less