SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Members of Congress from both parties and national veterans leaders Monday called for federal action to absolve the debts of nearly 10,000 soldiers who have been ordered by the Pentagon to repay enlistment bonuses a decade after they signed up to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a Republican, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, both Californians, were among those who expressed outrage.

Maj. Gen. Matthew Beevers said the California National Guard is working with members of Congress to reintroduce legislation that, if approved and signed by the president, would order the National Guard Bureau to clear the debts of soldiers who were wrongly told they were eligible for bonuses of $15,000 or more. A total of $22 million has been recovered so far, the Los Angeles Times reported.

“This is how you destroy all faith in a Pentagon that is supposed to have your back,” Brian Duffy, head of the national service organization Veterans of Foreign Wars, said in an emailed statement. “Instead of seeking repayment, the Pentagon owes them a debt of thanks and an apology for insulting their honorable service to our nation.”

The Guard offered bonuses of $15,000 or more, and student loan aid, to re-enlist at the height of the two wars in the 2000s.

The Pentagon demanded the money back after audits revealed overpayments by the California Guard under pressure to fill ranks and hit enlistment goals. If soldiers refused, they could face interest charges, wage garnishments and tax liens, the Times reported.


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