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Boozman: Defense Secretary Made Right Call to End Effort to Penalize Service Members for Recruiter Actions

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) today said Secretary Ash Carter “made the right call” after he announced that the Department of Defense (DoD) would suspend “all efforts to collect reimbursement” from improperly awarded enlistment bonuses given to some members of the California National Guard.

“Secretary Carter made the right call to end the effort to penalize service members for the actions of recruiting officials. Putting a huge financial hardship on the backs of service members and their families was an entirely inappropriate way to handle the situation. Our commitment to the men and women who put their lives at risk to serve our nation should not be broken by bureaucratic incompetence or overzealous recruiters,” Boozman said.

Over the weekend, the Los Angeles Times reported that the DoD was seeking to force up to 10,000 California National Guard soldiers to repay enlistment bonuses plus interest after audits revealed overpayments as the result of fraud and mismanagement by officials trying to reach enlistment targets. The Los Angeles Times report noted that many of the soldiers affected had served multiple combat deployments and many had their wages garnished and tax liens placed on them as a result. Secretary Carter ordered a full review of the incentive program while suspending efforts to collect reimbursements.

Boozman encouraged Secretary Carter to conduct a similar examination of DoD’s efforts to collect taxes on the severance payments received by veterans who suffer service-ending combat-related injuries. Under federal law, veterans who suffer combat-related injuries and who are separated from the military are not supposed to be taxed on their one-time lump sum disability severance payment, but DoD has withheld money from qualifying veterans for a number of years. Veterans are typically unaware that their benefits were improperly reduced as a result of DOD’s actions. Boozman and Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) have introduced the Combat-Injured Veterans Tax Fairness Act of 2016 to rectify this problem.

“It is absolutely wrong to deprive combat-injured veterans of their full severance upon separation. This has to be corrected. Our bill will put an end to this injustice and ensure that our nation’s wounded veterans receive the benefits they are rightfully due. Now would be a good time for Secretary Carter to throw his support behind our efforts while he is conducting a review of bureaucratic mismanagement at the Pentagon,” Boozman said.

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