Johnson, Ryan ask DOD to disclose veteran bonus information

Lauren Stanton tells us about fraud problems and how they're costing National Guardsmen.

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson and House Speaker Paul Ryan on Tuesday asked the Department of Defense to immediately suspend efforts to recover veteran re-enlistment bonuses.

Johnson, chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, wrote in a letter to Secretary of Defense Ash Carter on Tuesday: "Until more information is known, I ask that the Department please cease and desist any further collection efforts and harassment of the finest among us."

Ryan urged the Pentagon to suspend collection efforts until “Congress has time...to protect service members from lifelong liability for DOD’s mistakes.”

The Pentagon has ordered nearly 10,000 service members in the California National Guard to pay back re-enlistment bonuses that were distributed nearly 10 years ago. After a 2010 federal investigation found thousands of bonuses and student loan payments were improperly distributed to California Guard soldiers, the Pentagon sought to recover the money.

A defense authorization bill passed by the House would establish a statute of limitations on the military’s ability to recover future overpayments and scrutinize existing cases of service member debt. House and Senate negotiators are trying to finalize the defense bill and pass it during the post-election lame-duck session.

Johnson, in his letter, addressed concerns that veterans in every state could be affected, including the 42,000 veterans from Wisconsin who served during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

A 2014 audit and 2015 review of the re-enlistment bonus program were both completed in Wisconsin, according to a spokesman for the Wisconsin National Guard. "We found no systemic issues with bonuses being wrongly paid here in Wisconsin", the spokesman said.

Johnson's letter asked for information on the number of veterans in each state whom the DOD is seeking to collect the bonuses from, what level of DOD leadership made the decision to take the bonuses back and how the DOD intends to spend the millions of dollars already recovered from veterans.

At a news conference Tuesday in Paris, Carter said the issue is complex and officials were going to look into it “and resolve it.” But he offered no details.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

(2016 © USA TODAY)


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