NEW YORK, NY (October 24, 2016) – In the wake of media reports that nearly ten thousand soldiers in the California National Guard are being forced by the Pentagon to repay, with interest, re-enlistment bonuses awarded in wartime, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) released the following statement:
“It is unthinkable that these brave Americans who stepped forward when others did not after the 9/11 attacks are being left high and dry by their leadership,” said Paul Rieckhoff, Founder and CEO of IAVA. “Thousands of IAVA members have already taken advantage of the bonuses they received. The fact that our government would ask for it to be repaid with interest is simply unacceptable.”
In 2010, a federal investigation found that thousands of bonuses and student loan payments were given to California Guardsmen who did not qualify for them. Instead of forgiving overpayments, the California Guard completed an audit in September 2016, requiring 9,700 current and former soldiers to repay all or part of the bonuses. It has also been reported that service members in other states are faced with similar challenges.
“IAVA will not back down until this wrong is made right. We call on the Department of Defense to forgive this error and reject the notion that any servicemember should have to pay the price for failures of their leaders.” Rieckhoff continued, “We are also aggressively working with Congressional leadership to ensure that those who continue to point to ‘the law’ as a roadblock will no longer have that out.”
If you are National Guard member or veteran that is in need of help:
- Contact DoD to apply for a waiver
- Share your financial needs with IAVA’s Rapid Response Referral Team
- Share your story in IAVA’s Virtual Veteran Hall
If you are an American who is outraged by this news:
- Join IAVA in telling Uncle Sam to #PayThemBack by signing our petition
- Raise your voice on social media by using the hashtag #PayThemBack
IAVA is the leading voice of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in Washington and communities nationwide. Led by veterans, our non-partisan advocacy work ensures that Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and their families are supported, protected and never forgotten. Since 2004, IAVA has been a juggernaut in Washington, creating and driving the national conversation on issues ranging from Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) to women veteran issues to veteran unemployment. IAVA’s dedicated staff in Washington, D.C. leads this work, advocating on behalf of our members daily. We also train our member veterans to be powerful advocates for their community.
IAVA is focused on results and has delivered historic impacts. Every year since 2007, in an increasingly gridlocked political environment and with an extremely limited operating budget, IAVA has passed at least one major piece of groundbreaking legislation for our community ranging from the Post-9/11 GI Bill (2008), to the VOW to Hire Heroes Act (2011), to The Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans (SAV) Act (2015).
See IAVA’s Advocacy Program Digital Hub the full list of victories and to learn more about how you can help.
Note to media: Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 212-982-9699 to speak with IAVA CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff or IAVA leadership.
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (www.IAVA.org) is the leading post-9/11 veteran empowerment organization (VEO) with the most diverse and rapidly growing membership in America. As a non-profit founded in 2004, IAVA’s mission is to connect, unite and empower post-9/11 veterans. Celebrating its 12th year anniversary, IAVA has connected more than 1.2 million veterans with resources and community, and provided more than 7,300 veterans with personalized support from IAVA’s Master’s level social workers.