Soldiers who were on the front lines 10 years ago are sounding the alarm on the Pentagon after it ordered them to pay back more than $15,000 in enlistment bonuses.
Sergeant Robert Richmond and Sergeant Bryan Strother are just two of nearly 10,000 troops who have been ordered to re-pay the bonuses issued in error. They joined the FOX Business Network’s Mornings with Maria to share their stories.
“In 2006, I was getting ready to end my current enlistment and I asked my unit representative if I was eligible for a bonus because I was debating whether or not I would reenlist. After talking to headquarters, he came back to me and said I was eligible for either a $7,500 bonus for three years or $15,000 for six years. I opted for the six years and reenlisted. Ten years go by and I receive a letter from the Department of Defense stating that my bonus was given to me illegally and that it was against National Guard policy and I had to immediately repay it or they’d turn me over to the credit agencies and Treasury Department for collection,” said Sgt. Richmond.
Sgt. Strother, who filed a class-action federal lawsuit over the matter, shared a similar experience.
“[I] was ordered to a retention seminar in 2007, [I] had just returned to a Middle East deployment less than a year earlier, was offered all these bonuses, student loan repayments and it was by a One Star General. There were about 300 combat veterans there. It was an assembly line of paperwork. We raised our hands, swore to the Constitution – contracts that were written in blood. These were promises that they made to us. These were not what they were calling them,” he said.
Strother said after coming back from Iraq, payments stopped and five years later, after contacting Congressman Tom McClintock (R-CA), the National Guard finally send a recoupment letter.
“A form letter they were sending out to everyone that was so impersonal. It started off accusing us of being in violation of state and federal laws just for reenlisting and ended with you can contact an attorney or a chaplain. It was an endless nightmare of appeal after appeal,” he said.
Strother says his student loan repayments have been forgiven but he still owes $3,000 of the $12,000 contracted to pay.