03:24 GMT06 March 2021
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    In the latest development in the ongoing US soldiers’ bonuses scandal unraveling in California, it turns out that neither the Pentagon nor the National Guard can tell exactly how many soldiers will or won’t have to repay their wrongly assigned bonuses.

    The US National Guard and the Defense Department need more time to compile the list of soldiers who were given "mistaken" bonus payments during their service in Iraq and Afghanistan — a measure aimed to encourage the soldiers to stay in the Army at the peak of war.

    Both the DoD and the National Guard claim that the issue is mostly confined to California and cases in other states are only "in the dozens," but fail to provide the accurate number.

    Earlier this week, the Army National Guard has sparked public outrage when it claimed that some 10,000 soldiers from California might have to repay their re-enlistment bonuses, estimated as $15,000 or higher per person. So far, some 2,300 unauthorized payments have been confirmed, worth nearly $22 million, according to CNN.

    On Wednesday, General Joseph Lengyel, chief of the National Guard Bureau, said the service examined the situation in every state and had determined the number of erroneously awarded soldiers was small.

    "I can tell you they did look at every state… they did find some contracts were dispersed erroneously. There were small numbers and I can get you those numbers," he told reporters.

    The repayment order has caused severe financial hardships to some of the recipients, according to the media reports. Some of the bonus recipients had to deny themselves even the most basic of goods in order to collect the repayment; the largest reported figure is $275,000, according to USA today.

    The Pentagon has halted the repayment of bonuses following the Secretary of Defense Ash Carter's order to "stop clawing back" the excessive bonuses, a move called "a long overdue first step" by Senator John McCain. Secretary Carter ordered a review of the program and charged his staff with developing a process to resolve the cases by July 1, 2017.

    White House spokesperson Josh Earnest said the administration welcomes the Pentagon's response and noted that the President wanted to "avoid a situation where service members are punished because of nefarious or fraudulent behavior by someone else."

    Following the Carter's order, the Pentagon is struggling to find a legitimate way to waive the debt of several thousand US soldiers. Unless Congress passes a special law, the California National Guard has no authority to waive the debts unilaterally. And the Department of Defense only has the authority to waive the debts one by one, in response to individual pleas, a process that seems too inefficient, according to the media.


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    repayment, bonuses, US Department of Defense (DoD), National Guard, Ash Carter, California, US
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