Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Honor the Guard

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Honor the Guard

Article excerpt

WHEN IT comes to compensating members of the U.S. armed forces for their service to this country, no amount of monetary payment is fully adequate. Indeed, during years following the attacks of 9/11, when those in uniform were being pressed into multiple tours of service in Iraq and Afghanistan, and at great personal risk, thoughts of payment or personal debts were the furthest things from the minds of those in the upper reaches of government and the Pentagon involved in war-making decisions.

Now it comes to light that some members of the California National Guard who served in those theaters may be required to repay so-called enlistment bonuses -- in some cases totaling more than $25,000 -- that were offered during wartime. On Wednesday Defense Secretary Ash Carter wisely ordered the Pentagon to suspend efforts to collect those repayments until a more palatable resolution of the matter is reached.

Over the weekend, The Los Angeles Times reported that the Pentagon demanded that thousands of soldiers repay their enlistment bonuses after audits revealed overpayments by the California National Guard. The newspaper reported that recruiters had been under pressure to fill ranks and hit enlistment goals at the height of those conflicts, and improperly offered bonuses of $15,000 or more to those who reenlisted.

"The heroes who served our country in uniform deserve every bonus and benefit they received in good faith," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who said lawmakers need to find a more permanent solution to the problem. "We all must work together to swiftly address this situation and monitor any additional issues that come in California and other states."

In a statement issued during a meeting of defense ministers in Brussels, Carter said the so-called clawback program would be stopped "as soon as practical" and ordered the Defense Department to set up a streamlined process by Jan. …

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