Politics

Lawmakers reach deal to forgive California Guard repayment orders

File: Soldiers attend their farewell ceremony for about 850 California National Guardsmen from the 1st Battalion, 185th Armor on Aug. 22, 2008 in San Bernardino.
File: Soldiers attend their farewell ceremony for about 850 California National Guardsmen from the 1st Battalion, 185th Armor on Aug. 22, 2008 in San Bernardino.
David McNew/Getty Images

Thousands of California National Guard members will likely be able to keep their bonuses.

Members of the House and Senate announced a deal Tuesday as part of the National Defense Authorization bill that will be voted on at the end of next week. This comes after the Pentagon demanded that improperly issued enlistment bonuses be paid back by nearly 10,000 soldiers in October.

The agreement calls on the Pentagon to forgive the bonuses, unless the soldier knew he or she wasn't eligible for it, according to Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff. Additionally, any repayments already made would be refunded with interest.

A review board will examine all the bonuses and student loan repayment contracts awarded between 2004 and 2015 to determine if repayment is warranted, the Associated Press reported.

The bonuses, worth thousands of dollars each, were issued during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. When members of Congress and other elected officials heard about the repayment orders, they called on the Guard and Pentagon to stop. 

Republican Congressman Darrell Issa was one of those people. He applauded the agreement in a statement Wednesday:

After so many of our heroes have had their credit ruined, their life savings ransacked and their financial futures upturned in an effort to repay bonuses they accepted in good faith, this is an appropriate and necessary step to doing what’s right.

The legislation would also require the Pentagon to inform credit agencies to correct any negative effect on credit scores if the debts are forgiven, according to Issa's statement.

Schiff told KPCC it was important to find a solution quickly and that he was pleased with the progress.

“This, I think, is just a requirement of fundamental fairness and ought to satisfy the requirements of the vast majority of those soldiers that were affected," he said.

If there are additional problems that the legislation doesn’t address, Schiff said Congress can revisit the issue next year.

“Hopefully, we’ll allow these soldiers to go into the holidays knowing that the Pentagon won’t be coming after them,” he said.