U.S. Representative Jeff Denham (R-Turlock) on Tuesday introduced legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives – H.R. 6316, the Veterans Earned Their Bonuses Act (VET Bonus Act) – to address the issue of veterans being forced to repay bonuses that were granted by California National Guard (CalGuard) recruiters from 2004 to 2010.
“The men and women who bravely served or are still serving this country in our armed forces should not be forced to repay anything they received in good faith and earned through their blood, sweat and sacrifice,” said Rep. Denham. “Unfortunately, the Pentagon has been going after these soldiers even though the contract for service was signed and fulfilled. To hold them liable for a contract that was presented by an agent of the U.S. Army, as much as a decade later, is unjust. This legislation seeks to right these wrongs and hold the administration accountable for the damage it has caused.”
While individual cases have been addressed at the district level, only the Department of Defense (DOD) holds the list of affected military men and women and their pay records. The issue was further brought to light in October, with the most widely publicized case to-date being a CA-10 constituent in Manteca, who was forced to return $46,000 in bonuses and student loans. A 2010 federal investigation found that CalGuard recruiters granted some bonuses illegally; however the administration assured Congress at that time that it had the authority to address the issue and uphold the original contracts.
“While the DOD has stopped the harassment, much more needs to be done, and it is important that we resolve this issue under the current administration where it all started. Our veterans deserve a secure financial future,” said Denham.
The VET Bonus Act will ensure that receipt of bonus money from CalGuard from 2004 to 2010 is not subject to repayment to DOD, unless a vet committed fraud. It also requires the DOD to notify credit agencies that any debt previously reported was never valid. Additionally, repayments already paid will be returned to the veteran, plus interest allowed under current laws. The bill also provides financial assistance to those veterans who incurred further financial hardship.