|American Legion on Bonuses: ‘We stand with the soldiers of the Guard’|
|Contact Your Members of Congress Now|
|(October 25, 2016) After a news organization reported the Defense Department is forcing National Guardsmen from California to pay back bonuses received in error, The American Legion is calling on the U.S. military to immediately cease collection efforts and to forgive their debt.“As far as The American Legion is concerned, the debt is backwards. America owes a debt to these heroes that we can never re-pay,” said National Commander Charles E. Schmidt. “It is outrageous that thousands of National Guard members in California and many other states were promised bonuses if they would re-enlist and go to war. Most did, and now they are being hounded to re-pay the money because of bureaucratic incompetence. This is not how you treat our volunteers, who had no more obligation to serve than any other American. How can any potential military member ever believe what military recruiters promise them in the future? Congress and the White House need to fix this now and provide immediate relief to those who have already been bullied into paying this. There are a few documented cases where apparently fraud has been committed. Fraud is a crime and those who committed this offense should be punished. But there is no way that the overwhelming majority of these thousands of servicemembers are anything other than heroes who mistakenly believed the promises that their government was making to them. If their overpayments were not made due to malicious deception on their part, they should not be held responsible for it.”
LEGISLATIVE FIX UNDERWAY
Thankfully, the beginning of a legislative fix is already underway in the FY17 NDAA, a defense policy bill which is expected to pass when Congress returns to Washington after the elections. A provision in the House version of the bill will establish a statute of limitations on the military recovering future overpayments and scrutinize the Defense Finance and Accounting Service’s management of existing cases of service member debt. Currently, there is no statute of limitation and there are cases of the Department of Defense sending first notice of collection more than a decade after debt was incurred. At some point in a military career, it is fairly common for a service member to be under or over paid in salary or benefits. Service members are limited to 10 years to seek redress whereas DoD has no such restriction. This provision is a necessary first step toward establishing a common standard for correcting accounting errors that applies equally to both DoD and the individual service member.
As for next steps, The American Legion is working with Congressional leadership to find a comprehensive legislative cure for those California veterans already affected by recoupment.
Bottom line: The American Legion stands with all of the soldiers and families that have been affected by this. We will not rest until the problem is fixed.
Please act now and send your Members of Congress a prepared message letting them know you expect both Congress and the Pentagon to work together responsibly to right this wrong.