Pentagon Waives Repayment of $190 Million in Bonuses, Other Payments From California National Guard Members

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A California National Guardsman waves to friends and family gathered at Ft. Irwin for a final family day gathering on Oct. 25, 2016, before members of the 1st Battalion, 185th Regiment, deploy for a yearlong tour of duty in Iraq. (Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

A California National Guardsman waves to friends and family gathered at Ft. Irwin for a final family day gathering on Oct. 25, 2016, before members of the 1st Battalion, 185th Regiment, deploy for a yearlong tour of duty in Iraq. (Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

The Defense Department will let California National Guard members keep more than $190 million in disputed enlistment bonuses and other payments — far more than previously acknowledged — after the military spent six years trying to recover the money from veterans who had served at the height of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

In all, repayments were waived for 17,092 California Guard soldiers who were given what were later deemed questionable bonuses, according to a Defense Department report obtained by The Times. Those who already repaid their bonuses are being reimbursed.

The report, which was sent to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees this month, concludes that the overwhelming majority of California Guard soldiers did nothing wrong in accepting bonuses of $15,000 to $80,000 each. Only 393 soldiers have been ordered to return the money, chiefly due to disciplinary or criminal conduct.

The sweeping forgiveness represents an almost total retreat by the Pentagon and the California Guard, which drove the aggressive recoupment effort against thousands of military veterans — including some who were wounded in combat — and has yet to publicly apologize to them.

Read the full story on LATimes.com