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Soldiers forced to repay bonuses for reenlisting to National Guard

Audit showed California Guard overpayed soldiers sent to war

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Thousands of soldiers who accepted bonuses to reenlist and go off to war with the California National Guard are now being told to pay the money back.

The Los Angeles Times reports that the Pentagon wants nearly 10,000 soldiers to return their $15,000 bonus after an audit showed widespread overpayments by the California Guard.

Soldiers are now facing financial hardships in order to return the money.

“These bonuses were used to keep people in,” Christopher Van Meter told the newspaper. “People like me just got screwed.”

Van Meter, who was awarded a Purple Heart for combat injuries suffered in Iraq, says he refinanced his home mortgage to pay off the bonus.

The bonuses were offered to help fill a troop shortage during the wars over the last decade. The audit showed a lack of oversight by the California Guard as they attempted to meet enlistment targets.

The Times says an investigation showed that some of the bonuses were given to soldiers who did not qualify.

Guard officers were arrested, with one receiving jail time for a fraud conviction.

The government has recouped more than $22 million as almost 9,700 current and retired soldiers have been told to repay all or some of their bonuses.

Other soldiers have fought the repayment order, while others have just given up.

“I signed a contract that I literally risked my life to fulfill,” Robert Richmond argues. “We want somebody in the government, anybody, to say this is wrong and we’ll stop going after this money.”