(Heck House) Amid reports that members of the California National Guard are being forced to repay enlistment bonuses given during the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Congressman Joe Heck (NV-03), Chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel, will join with members of the National Guard and Reserve Component Caucus in sending a letter to Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter urging the Department of Defense to “immediately halt all ongoing efforts to recoup these bonuses.”
The letter also asks for a review of the processes and cases still ongoing and urges the Secretary to waive recoupment where the Service Member fulfilled their contract.
“As a member of the U.S. Army Reserve and a commander, it is beyond absurd to me that the Pentagon is recouping enlistment bonuses paid more than 10 years ago,” Rep. Joe Heck said. “These men and women reenlisted knowing they would be sent back to a war zone, and many of them returned home with wounds both visible and invisible. Those bonuses went to down payments on homes and cars, to support families, and to repay student loans. Our Guardsmen and Reservists simply don’t have tens of thousands of dollars laying around to repay the Pentagon. Hopefully this letter helps end the unfair recoupment of these bonuses.”
The joint letter states, “We are certain, as you have repeatedly stressed yourself, that taking care of our troops is a top priority for all of us. We believe that recouping payments to troops who received the payments in good faith, and with the understanding that they were rightfully authorized this pay, is not in line with that effort. Many of these men and women volunteered to serve as our country was surging forces overseas and did so with the promise that they and their families would receive additional financial compensation. Seeking recoupment of these funds that were erroneously received through no fault of the Service Members is not in line with our promise to take care of those who stand up to answer the call of our nation.”
The full text of the letter can be read below.
Additionally, the House-passed National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 contains a provision (Section 642) that will establish a statute of limitations on the military recovering future overpayments and scrutinize the Defense Finance and Accounting Service’s management of existing cases of service member debt. Section 642 is a necessary first step toward establishing a common standard for correcting accounting errors that applies equally to both DoD and the individual service member.
The Honorable Ashton B. Carter
Secretary of Defense
The United States Department of Defense
1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301-1000
Dear Secretary Carter:
Nothing is more important and nothing binds our nation together like the support of our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines. We write to you today as members of the National Guard and Reserve Component Caucus because we are concerned with continued reports about the ongoing recoupment of bonuses previously paid to Service Members, through no fault of the Service Member.
We ask that you immediately halt all ongoing efforts to recoup these bonuses while you review the processes and cases to ensure that Service Members are protected and that these actions are in best interests of the United States. We also ask that you waive the recoupment in appropriate cases where the Service Member fulfilled their contract.
It is our understanding that Department of Defense (DoD) and the applicable service Secretaries already possess authority to approve erroneous payment collection waivers under current DoD Financial Management Regulation 7000.14-R, and set forth in DoDD 1340.22, Waiver of Debts Resulting from Erroneous Payments of Pay and Allowances (dated January 8, 2005), which is codified at 32 C.F.R. Part 283, and DoD Instruction (DoDI) 1340.23, Waiver Procedures for Debts Resulting from Erroneous Pay and Allowances (dated February 14, 2006), which is codified at 32 C.F.R. Part 284. If you do not believe you possess this authority, please let us know so Congress can take appropriate action.
Additionally, we ask that you provide the following information no later than December 1st, 2016:
• Has the authority outlined in the previous paragraph been used? If so, in how many cases?
• Have Service Members been educated on their ability to apply for this relief?
• Does the DoD, Department of the Army, or the National Guard Bureau (NGB) plan to grant a blanket waiver for all Service Member affected by improperly paid bonuses, that were no fault of the Service member?
If you determine that a waiver in these cases is not appropriate we ask that you also provide the following information at your earliest convenience:
• A list of bonus recoupments that have occurred or are in process which you believe do not justify a recoupment waiver.
o the Service Member’s component (including state National Guard if applicable)
o the original bonus amount
o the date when the bonus was issued
o the amount recouped
o the date the recoupment process started and completed
o the authorizing authority/office
o the reason the waiver is being denied.
• A list of bonuses fraudulently given since 2000, like those identified in the joint Federal Bureau of Investigations and United States Army Criminal Investigation Command investigation into Master Sergeant Toni L. Jaffe. Please include what authorities these bonuses were given under and what authority are they being recouped under.
We are certain, as you have repeatedly stressed yourself, that taking care of our troops is a top priority for all of us. We believe that recouping payments to troops who received the payments in good faith, and with the understanding that they were rightfully authorized this pay, is not in line with that effort. Many of these men and women volunteered to serve as our country was surging forces overseas and did so with the promise that they and their families would receive additional financial compensation. Seeking recoupment of these funds that were erroneously received through no fault of the Service Members is not in line with our promise to take care of those who stand up to answer the call of our nation.
We look forward to working with you to address this issue as swiftly as possible.
Congressman Joe Heck represents Nevada’s Third Congressional District in the House of Representatives. He serves on the House Armed Services Committee, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.