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National Guard Soldiers Told to Pay Back Bonuses

By Dan Gagnon; Assistant News/Sports Editor
On November 3, 2016

National Guard Soldiers Told to Pay Back Bonuses

Dan Gannon

Assistant News/Sports Editor 

Over 9,500 members of the California National Guard were told to payback millions of dollars to the Pentagon nearly ten years after they went to war. This came after an investigation that California National Guard leaders were found to be engaging in enlistment fraud.

In 2011, then retired Master Sgt. Toni Jaffe, and then acting as California’s National Guard Incentive Manager, was found guilty of filing nearly $15.2 million dollars in false claims to the Pentagon. "When she pleaded guilty, Jaffe admitted that from the fall of 2007 through October 2009, she routinely submitted false and fictitious claims on behalf of her fellow California National Guard members," the Department of Justice said in a statement.

Jaffe knowingly submitted bonus claims that she knew soldiers did not qualify for, yet they received them anyways. Jaffe was ultimately sentenced to 30 months in Federal Prison. Three other officers plead guilty in connection with the fraud and were given probation and ordered to pay restitution.

However, thousands of soldiers that fought in the California National Guard are now being ordered to pay back their bonuses they received. The Los Angeles times reported on Christopher Van Meter, who received a purple heart in Iraq in 2007, after an IED, or improvised explosive device, blew up the Humvee he was traveling in. After serving a combined 15 years in the Army, Van Meter was set to retire until the military offered him a bonus. "They entice you with another reenlistment bonus. Those bonuses were ... around $15,000," Van Meter told CNN's "New Day."

This month, Van Meter received a letter stating that he owed the Pentagon $46,000, including a $15,000 reenlistment bonus, as well as an officer bonus, and in student loans. He is not the only one affected by the fraudulent paperwork filed years earlier. According to the Los Angeles Times, the California National Guard has told nearly 9,700 current and retired soldiers to pay back their bonuses they received a decade ago.

This number may continue to climb as the Justice Department reports 11,000 soldiers have been audited. Out of that number so far, 2,000 soldiers have been found to have received 2,300 unapproved bonuses. Another 5,400 soldiers had no paperwork or proof that they deserved the money they were given. The total as of right now in confirmed fraudulent bonuses: $22 million dollars. Soldiers have begun to petition paying back their bonuses, as they had no idea the money was dirty.

Congress has yet to take any action on the matter, but California representatives are trying to fight back in favor on the men and women who fought for their country. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said in a statement, "Our military heroes should not shoulder the burden of military recruiters' faults from over a decade ago," he said. "They should not owe for what was promised during a difficult time in our country. Rather, we are the ones who owe a debt for the great sacrifices our heroes have made." 

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