Target: U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter
Goal: Do not allow the Pentagon to force soldiers to pay back money they were promised for their service.
Ten thousand soldiers of the California National Guard are being forced to repay enlistment bonuses, which in most cases amount to $15,000 or more, 10 years after serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. California National Guard officials were audited and found guilty of mishandling funds and making false claims—all of the soldiers who received bonuses were told they were eligible even if they were not, to entice them to re-enlist and fill the ranks for those two major wars. This mistake is not the fault of the soldiers, and they should not be blamed for it.
The former soldiers are not the ones being charged with fraud, and yet if they do not pay back the thousands of dollars of debt that they never knew they had, they could face interest charges and tax liens. Many lawmakers are outraged, and even military officials are in favor of waiving the debt, but say that they cannot because they would be breaking the law. One anonymous service member said he had to refinance his home mortgage in order to give back $25,000 of enlistment bonuses and $21,000 of student loan repayments that he is not determined to have received “improperly.”
Sign below to help our heroes and demand that their “debts” be forgiven.
Dear Defense Secretary Carter,
It is outrageous that our soldiers are being asked to repay bonuses that they were promised for their service a decade ago. These former soldiers were told they were eligible for bonuses as an incentive to re-enlist, as the California National Guard tried to meet pressures to fill its ranks. We were fighting in two major wars, and these soldiers fought bravely for our country in Iraq and Afghanistan. They did not know they were ineligible for the money they were promised. They did not mishandle the money. They made no false claims. They should not be punished for an error that is not their fault.
Many soldiers will have to completely alter their lives in order to try and pay back huge sums of money in “debt” that they didn’t know they had. On top of that, they face interest charges and tax liens if they do not pay it back. One anonymous soldier is even being forced to repay money he never received: He was promised a $10,000 bonus to leave the Reserves and serve overseas. When he returned home, he was told he had to pay back the bonus in full even though $3,000 of it was taken out for taxes. Our soldiers have already shouldered more than their fair share of burdens for this country, and this one should not be theirs to bear. I urge you to use your authority, including a legislative solution if necessary, to right this wrong.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Tech Sgt. Efren Lopez, U.S. Air Force