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See Update AP News, 25 October 2016 - The California National Guard is responding to
a growing controversy Tuesday morning.

A decade after the Pentagon offered bonuses to entice soldiers to enlist, officials now
want thousands of veterans to pay back the money.

The California National Guard is asserting some soldiers who received bonuses
committed fraud.

Meanwhile, the sergeant who dispensed the bonuses is in prison facing a $15 million
fine. We have now learned that five officers were sentenced to shorter jail time and
nearly 40 soldiers have been disciplined.

The Guard has issued a new statement about the bonuses for Guard members who
didn't initially qualify for them.

They say a small number of soldiers committed fraud knowingly, although the Guard
acknowledges many of the guardsmen who got the bonuses acted on good faith, but had
bad information.

"I was completely and totally in shock. I couldn't believe they were doing this to me," said
Susan Haley, an Afghanistan war veteran. "They said I received these monies in
violation of federal law."

The Guard points out they notified Congress two years ago about the situation and
states: "Unfortunately, the California Guard cannot waive debts unilaterally, as that
authority rests at the federal level. In 2014, however, California National Guard
leadership did reach out to congressional and other federal leaders to encourage
alleviation of these debts."

"We think it's a joke. It obviously was not a joke," said retired Army and National Guard
reservist Christopher Van Meter. "It's gut-wrenching because you've got to figure out
what you've got to do, how you're going to survive."

There is corrective legislation that could be included in the defense authorization bill up
for a vote at the end of the year.

"It certainly hurts the credibility going forward if we can't depend on the promises that
were made to us when we volunteered to put our life on the line," said retired naval
Cmdr. Francis McVey.

The Guard says they'll continue to advocate for soldiers to get relief, calling it their "duty."

The soldier incentive and assistance center was created in 2011 to help with this
problem. The Guard claims the SIAC helped 4,000 soldiers retain $37 million in bonus
money, but they'll need that federal help to waive paybacks altogether.
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