Washington—Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer and Representative Adam Schiff (all D-Calif.) today introduced legislation to permanently halt efforts to claw back reenlistment bonuses and benefits paid to National Guard service members a decade ago.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter has ordered a temporary suspension of all collection efforts and committed to establishing a streamlined process to provide financial relief for affected service members. This bill would provide a permanent solution and ensure relief efforts are uninterrupted in the next administration.
“The Pentagon has shown a willingness to resolve this issue on its own, but we need to ensure these efforts won’t lapse under a new president,” said Senator Feinstein. “We want to reassure the affected service members that our government stands by its commitments and they will not be punished for the actions of others."
"I am relieved that Secretary Carter has suspended efforts to reclaim bonuses from service members who accepted them in good faith, but more must be done," Senator Boxer said. "Our bill would permanently halt recoupment actions and ensure that those who already paid back their bonuses are repaid with interest. And most importantly, it would ensure that the Department of Defense helps to make these service members financially whole again. Our soldiers and their families should not be responsible for the mistakes and illegal behavior of others. I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure this financial burden does not weigh on our military families, who have already sacrificed so much.”
“I was pleased when Secretary Carter announced the Pentagon would halt claw backs of bonuses and benefits given to members of the National Guard who enlisted or reenlisted to serve our nation during war time,” said Rep. Schiff. “However, legislative action is still needed to ensure these debts are waived and to repay soldiers who already paid back some or all of the bonuses they accepted in good faith. It should not fall on the shoulders of those who serve our country to pay for the mistakes of others that offered these incentives improperly or allowed the error to go undiscovered for so many years. It’s my hope that Congress will take this legislation up in the lame duck, and as a conferee on the National Defense Authorization Act, I will fight to make sure it’s included.”
According to the Pentagon, almost 10,000 members of the Army National Guard may have received improper benefits from 2004 to 2010.
The bill prevents the Army from recouping those funds from any service members who unknowingly received them during that time period. It also requires the Army to reimburse any soldier who has already repaid the government, including interest, and to notify credit agencies that any debt previously reported was invalid.
The bill would not cover National Guard members who engaged in fraud or misrepresentation.
In addition to Senators Feinstein and Boxer, the Senate bill is cosponsored by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.).
The companion legislation introduced in the House by Rep. Schiff is cosponsored by Representatives Ami Bera (D-Calif.), Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.), Jim Costa (D-Calif.), Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), Sam Farr (D-Calif.), Mike Honda (D-Calif.), Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), Doris Matsui (D-Calif.), Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.), Scott Peters (D-Calif.), Ed Royce (D-Calif.), Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.), Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), Mark Takano (D-Calif.), Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), Norma Torres (D-Calif.), Juan Vargas (D-Calif.), Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), John Delaney (D-Md.), Don Young (R-Alaska), Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), Gwen Graham (D-Fla.) and Walter Jones (R-N.C.).