Recently, the Pentagon made headlines for its efforts to collect payments it had previously issued to soldiers.
The payments, which were in the amount of $15,000 or more, were distributed by the California National Guard as an attempt to encourage soldiers to re-enlist in the military, and complete tours to Iraq and Afghanistan. The payments were made to thousands of soldiers. In 2011, however, an audit revealed that the National Guard had paid significantly more than the allotted number to eligible soldiers, and had even made some payments to soldiers who were ineligible altogether. Per this audit, the National Guard began spearheading efforts to re-claim the payments made.
On October 26, however, Ash Carter, the U.S. Defense Secretary, issued orders that would stop the Pentagon from pursuing their collections efforts. This move by Carter means that the number of soldiers who had been scrambling to repay the U.S. Government would be cut drastically.
The LA Times reports that the suspended repayments will affect roughly 9,700 California National Guard members who were paid via enlistment bonuses, student loans, and other financial perks between the years of 2006 and 2008.
While the payments themselves did not cause uproar when they were issued, the Government’s response to the overpayments did. President Obama said that the Defense Department was attempting to “nickel and dime” the soldiers, and soldiers, ex-military members, and civilians alike took to social media to express their outrage over the situation.
Matthew Beevers, the deputy commander of California’s National Guard, is quoted as having said, “At the end of the day, the soldiers ended up paying the largest price.” Beevers further expressed that, as soon as legislation was passed to allow the army to absolve the soldiers of their owed debts, the military would be happy to remove the burden of payment from them.
Due to widespread public outrage and the military’s own stance on lifting the repayment requirement, Carter has moved to make it unnecessary for the soldiers to repay the U.S. Government. Carter is quoted as having said, “We will provide for a process that puts as little burden as possible on any soldier who received an improper payment through no fault of his or her own.”
As it stands now, the Defense Department is required to update its process to a more streamlined one and help troops escape the burden of repayment by January 1, 2017.
Before Ash Carter’s announcement that the repayments would be suspended, people everywhere were reacting violently to the news that the soldiers would be forced to repay the mistaken funds. Now, many people hope that Carter’s announcement and his department’s subsequent actions will move to resolve the re-payment issue and remove the burden of coming up with tens of thousands of dollars from thousands of military and ex-military members and their families around the country.
While it remains to be seen how efficiently Carter’s requirements will go into action, many people hope this will be the end of the repayment scandal for these soldiers and their families.