Exclusive–Rep. Buchanan Blasts Pentagon; DoD Suspends Bonus Clawback

Yellow ribbons and a welcome home sign were tied to a fence outside an Iowa National Guard facility in Davenport, Iowa ahead of a homecoming ceremony for 75 veterans returning from Iraq after a year-long deployment on November 23, 2011.

A senior Florida Republican congressman and Air National Guard veteran tells Breitbart News the Pentagon’s decision to suspend its campaign of reclaiming enlistment bonuses from California National Guardsmen is not a sufficient response to the scandal.

“I know how important these enlistment bonuses can be for soldiers and their families,” said Rep. Vern Buchanan (R.-Fla.), who served six years in the Air National Guard.

“Many of our veterans serving in Iraq and Afghanistan endured long separations from their families and economic hardship while fighting abroad,” he said.

Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter order the collection of erroneous bonus, but Wednesday he announced that he was suspending the program for further review.

“I have ordered the Defense Finance and Accounting Service to suspend all efforts to collect reimbursement from affected California National Guard members, effective as soon as is practical. This suspension will continue until I am satisfied that our process is working effectively,” Cater said.

“Ultimately, we will provide for a process that puts as little burden as possible on any soldier who received an improper payment through no fault of his or her own. At the same time, it will respect our important obligation to the taxpayer,” he said.

“I want to be clear: this process has dragged on too long, for too many service members. Too many cases have languished without action,” the secretary said.

“Not good enough,” Buchanan told Breitbart News in an exclusive interview.

“There is no middle ground on this issue. The Pentagon needs to tell veterans it will permanently — not temporarily — end its obscene effort to collect enlistment bonuses from a decade ago,” he said.

“The government also should apologize to all the veterans affected.”

The issue has become a national scandal and was the first topic of Curt Schilling on his first episode of his Breitbart Radio talk show “Whatever It Takes.”

Schilling said 10,000 soldiers were given bonuses up to $50,000 that were given by mistake, so the government is looking to take them back–with interest.

“What is our government doing?” he asked.

This “horrific action” is another example of the government’s inept and embarrassing job performance and disconnect from what normal Americans expect, the pitcher said.

Buchanan, who is the vice-chair of the bipartisan Florida House delegation, said to be told they have to repay thousands of dollars in enlistment bonuses because of a bureaucratic snafu is disgraceful and unacceptable.

The congressman wrote to Carter Wednesday to demand answers about the bonus scandal and to request that the Pentagon review the impact of the problem on the soldiers and airmen of the Sunshine State’s National Guard:

While the California National Guard has been the subject of investigations, we need accurate information to ensure that service members from other states – particularly Florida – have not been subject to this outrageous abuse. The Florida National Guard is one of the largest state Guard organizations in the country with more than 11,600 soldiers and airmen.

To that end, I respectfully request that your office (1) identify any instances of Florida service members who are or have been subject to bonus recoupment proceedings due to the mistakes of Defense Department officials and (2) describe steps that the Defense Department is taking to rectify this situation, both nationally and with respect to Florida.

Buchanan said he will continue to pursue answers.

“For many soldiers, this money means the difference between paying the mortgage, owning a car and putting food on the table,” he said.

“The Pentagon wastes billions of dollars on defective weapons systems but it can’t help our veterans?”


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