Guard troops won’t have to repay bonuses

California National Guard troops will not have to repay enlistment bonuses they received a decade ago when they signed up to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan.

House and Senate negotiators have decided not to require the repayment. The House is expected to vote on the issue as part of the annual defense policy bill by Friday, followed by a Senate vote next week.

The Pentagon began demanding the repayments after an audit revealed the Guard had overpaid enlistees under pressure to meet enlistment goals between 2004 and 2010.

Members of the California congressional delegation and veterans leaders had expressed outrage over the repayment demand.

“The men and women who bravely served or are still serving this country in our armed forces should not be forced to repay anything they received in good faith and earned through their blood, sweat and sacrifice,” said Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock, when he introduced H.R. 6316, the ‘Veterans Earned Their Bonuses Act’ earlier this month. “To hold them liable for a contract that was presented by an agent of the U.S. Army, as much as a decade later, is unjust.”

Under provisions in the bill, any member of the U.S. armed forces would be covered. Defense Department officials would have to prove service member were not eligible for a bonus or another type of special pay in order to force repayment.