(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) today joined Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer and Representative Adam Schiff (all D-Calif.) in introducing legislation to permanently halt efforts to claw back reenlistment bonuses and benefits paid to National Guard service members a decade ago.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter has ordered a temporary suspension of all collection efforts and committed to establishing a streamlined process to provide financial relief for affected service members. This bill would provide a permanent solution and ensure relief efforts are uninterrupted in the next administration.
“Suspending collection efforts of bonuses is a step in the right direction, but Congress must do more to right this wrong. This legislation will provide much-needed financial relief and will repay soldiers who paid back bonuses they accepted in good faith. These soldiers and their families--- who have already made tremendous sacrifices for our country— should not be held accountable for the negligence of others,” said Blumenthal and Murphy.
According to the Pentagon, almost 10,000 members of the Army National Guard may have received improper benefits from 2004 to 2010.
The bill prevents the Army from recouping those funds from any servicemembers who unknowingly received them during that time period. It also requires the Army to reimburse any soldier who has already repaid the government, including interest, and to notify credit agencies that any debt previously reported was invalid.
The bill would not cover National Guard members who engaged in fraud or misrepresentation.
In addition to Senators Blumenthal, Murphy, Feinstein and Boxer, the Senate bill is cosponsored by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.).
The companion legislation introduced in the House by Rep. Schiff is cosponsored by Representatives Ami Bera (D-Calif.), Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.), Jim Costa (D-Calif.), Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), Sam Farr (D-Calif.), Mike Honda (D-Calif.), Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), Doris Matsui (D-Calif.), Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.), Scott Peters (D-Calif.), Ed Royce (D-Calif.), Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.), Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), Mark Takano (D-Calif.), Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), Norma Torres (D-Calif.), Juan Vargas (D-Calif.), Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), John Delaney (D-Md.), Don Young (R-Alaska), Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), Gwen Graham (D-Fla.) and Walter Jones (R-N.C.).