Garamendi Calls Defense Secretary Carter’s Announcement on National Guard Bonus Repayments “A Step in the Right Direction,” Reaffirms Congressional Action Still Essential

DAVIS, CA – Congressman John Garamendi (D-Fairfield, Yuba City, Davis, CA), a Member of the House Armed Services Committee, today said he appreciates the announcement made by Secretary of Defense Ash Carter that the Department of Defense will halt the recoupment of bonus payments made to National Guard Veterans, calling it “a step in the right direction.” Garamendi had proposed an emergency amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act to force the Pentagon to take this step.

He cautioned, however, that despite Secretary Carter’s announcement, the National Guardsmen have not seen their debts forgiven, and Congressional intervention is still required to provide lasting protections to the National Guard members impacted. Here is Congressman Garamendi’s statement:

“I appreciate the announcement by Defense Secretary Ash Carter today that the Pentagon will temporarily suspend the collection of recoupments from California National Guard members. Today’s announcement, while a step in the right direction, still leaves thousands of California National Guardsmen on the hook for bonus recoupments in an appeals process managed by Department of Defense administrators.

The men and women in the National Guard who answered the call to service at a time of war and accepted the retention bonuses in good faith should not be at risk of having to return the bonuses under any circumstance.

Congress must act. We must pass a law that removes the repayment obligation for those National Guard members who, through no fault of their own, are caught in a bureaucratic nightmare. We must also ensure that Guardsmen who have paid back all or portions of these bonuses are issued a full refund. Secretary Carter’s intervention today is a positive step forward but does not solve the underlying problem that put these Guardsmen in a precarious situation.

I am grateful to the dogged investigative journalists at the Sacramento Bee and Los Angeles Times who brought light to this outrageous situation. With the scope of the problem now fully known thanks to the audit released last month, Congress must act promptly to fix this mess.

The National Defense Authorization Act, likely to be voted on during the lame duck session after the November election, remains a powerful and important legislative vehicle to ensure we’re being proactive in protecting Guardsmen. With my colleagues from the California delegation, we will continue to pursue every avenue available to ensure that our Guardsmen are treated fairly.”