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Pentagon Waves Payback From California National Guard Members

ca national guard

By Debbie Gregory.

The Department of Defense will allow 17,092 California National Guard members to keep more than $190 million in disputed enlistment bonuses and other payments.

A Defense Department report concluded that there was no wrong-doing on the part of the majority of California Guard soldiers who accepted bonuses of between $15,000 and $80,000 each. In fact, only 393 soldiers have been ordered to return the money, chiefly due to disciplinary action or criminal conduct.

The bonuses were previously recalled, years after recipients had completed their military service. Student loan repayments, which were given to some soldiers with educational loans, sometimes totaled as much as $50,000. The soldiers, who received the bonuses, took the money in good faith, served honorably, and fulfilled their enlistment contracts, often serving in war zones.

The forgiveness represents a retreat by the Defense Department and the California Guard from the aggressive recoupment effort, which included tax liens, wage garnishments and other heavy-handed tactics to try to recover the bonuses it paid for enlistment or reenlistment between 2004 to 2010. According to the report, the California Guard paid more than $233 million in bonuses and student loan repayments to fill its enlistment goals.

Most of the improper bonuses in California were processed by Army Master Sgt. Toni Jaffe, who pleaded guilty in 2011 to filing false claims of $15.2 million and was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison.

Many soldiers ordered to repay the large sums were slapped with interest charges, wage garnishments and tax liens if they refused or could not.

Going forward, the National Guard has put in place new computer software that is intended to ensure that bonuses are not given out improperly, and California has adopted the system, the report said.

But nothing has been said about an apology to those who were caught up in this unfortunate situation.

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Pentagon Will Waive Bonus Repayments for Most CA National Guardsmen

ca national

By Debbie Gregory.

The Pentagon announced it would waive repayment for more than 15,000 California National Guard soldiers and veterans who received enlistment bonuses over the last decade.

The Defense Department will begin notifying soldiers this month, with all of the notifications completed before July 1st.

The announcement follows President Obama’s December 23rd signing of the defense authorization bill into law. The bill contained language that required the Pentagon to conduct a case-by-case review of the California Guard bonuses, waiving repayment unless a soldier took the money fraudulently or did not fulfill his or her enlistment contract.

Bonuses of $15,000 or more were previously recalled, years after recipients had completed their military service. Student loan repayments, which were given to some soldiers with educational loans, sometimes totaled as much as $50,000.

A Pentagon review had found a total of 17,500 bonuses were paid to California Guard soldiers from 2004 to 2010.

Of those, 1,400 soldiers had been ordered to begin repaying a bonus or student loan incentive, while another 16,000 had been notified that they could face debt collection.

About 50 percent of the 1,400 who have been repaying their bonuses are likely to have the debts waived and their money returned.

Unfortunately, 1,000 or so other service members will not have their debts waived. In most cases, repayments will be from soldiers who decided not to fulfill their six-year enlistment terms or other terms of their contract.

Pentagon officials have said California was distinct in scale and because a handful of soldiers fraudulently took bonuses.

Most of the improper bonuses in California were processed by Army Master Sgt. Toni Jaffe, who pleaded guilty in 2011 to filing false claims of $15.2 million and was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison.

National Guard soldiers in states other than California who have been ordered to repay bonuses are not eligible for the debt forgiveness that Congress approved for California.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Military Connection: Two Soldiers Arrested for Selling Guns

guns seizedBy Joe Silva

Two members of the Army National Guard were arrested in California, accused of selling weapons, ammunition and body armor.

Staff Sergeant Andrew Reyes and Specialist Jaime Casillas were assigned to Troop C, 1-18, a California Army National Guard Cavalry unit stationed at the Armory in El Cajon.

On seven separate occasions, the two soldiers sold  a total of $13,000 worth of military property to undercover agents from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). The items included: four AR-15 rifles, an AK-47 assault rifle, a .40-caliber pistol, and a 7.62-caliber SKS rifle, body armor and thousands of rounds of ammunition. Reyes claims that some of the guns were his, and that he purchased them in Texas.

The undercover ATF agents told the two soldiers that they were members of a Mexican drug cartel, and that the guns would be transported into Mexico. Both men were reported to have been in uniform for at least one of the meetings with the agents.

Reyes and Casillas were arrested on April 16, 2015. Each man faces a charge of dealing firearms without a federal license. Reyes faces an additional charge of unlicensed transportation of weapons. Casillas is a Mexican national, and may have joined the military to assist in becoming a U.S. citizen. Both men are considered to be flight risks because they each travel to Mexico as many as four days/week.

There is no defending this behavior. Stories like this always beg the question, how did no one notice? I wonder what sort of investigation will be happening at that armory and what procedural changes will take place? As a Veteran, stories such as this, that tarnish the military that I served in, disgust me. The fact that I have to report them makes me even more uncomfortable. But I hope that some service members may read this article or hear about this incident, and become more observant where they work. Ensuring others aren’t acting in a similar matter will uphold all of the virtues our military represents.

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Military Connection: Two Soldiers Arrested for Selling Guns: By Joe Silva