U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter ordered the Pentagon to stop seeking repayments enlistment bonuses from California National Guard members.
The move came after pressure from members of Congress and President Barack Obama, as well as public backlash.
The Pentagon said thousands of soldiers weren't eligible for re-enlistment money and wants the money back, years after the bonuses were handed out. Many soldiers already started repaying bonuses, while others are in the process of long appeals.
Here are 5 things to know about the issue:
1. The California Guard underwent a criminal investigation in 2010, which found a massive internal bonus fraud. Former Bonus and Incentive Manager, Toni Jaffe of Citrus Heights, was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison in 2012 for submitting $15.2 million dollars in false and fraudulent claims to the United States Department of Defense (DOD). The retired Master Sergeant was also ordered to pay $15.2 million.
2. Soldiers both did or didn't know they were receiving fraudulent bonuses, according to DOD spokesperson, Laura Ochoa. She said the DOD found about 2,000 soldiers were asked to repay erroneous bonuses, but that there are also soldiers that 'should clearly be repaying'.
3. There was already a process in place after the 2010 investigation to review soldier bonus cases, until the process was found too slow and the Pentagon stepped in with the repayment order, according to Ochoa. A new, expedited process will be determined by the DOD by Jan. 1, 2017, according to a statement by Defense Secretary Ash Carter. Until then, all repayments are suspended.
4. Ochoa said there is no way of knowing whether or not reimbursements will be issued to soldiers found not at fault who have already made payments, since the new process is yet to be determined. She said the DOD is going to do what they can to be fair.
"The priority is helping those who should not be paying back," Ochoa said.
5. All soldier cases will be reviewed under the new process by July 1, 2017, according to Carter.
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