October 26, 2016 - With more information emerging about the enlistment bonus clawback scandal, it’s quickly becoming apparent that many Members of Congress have been aware of this issue for years and chose to do nothing. At the very least, as Chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee, Senator Isakson should have known bonus clawbacks are under discussion for the past three months as part of the conference committee on the annual National Defense Authorization Act (Section 642) that funds our military.
These facts raise an urgent question: when did Senator Isakson learn about enlistment bonus clawbacks and why didn’t he do anything about it sooner? And if he only learned about clawbacks this week, why isn’t Senator Isakson doing his job to oversee veterans issues as Chairman of the Senate Veteran Affairs Committee?
“In his statement yesterday, Senator Isakson said this situation was ‘horrendous’ and that ‘Our National Guard members should not be penalized due to someone else’s bureaucratic mismanagement.’ I couldn’t agree more. Our active duty soldiers and veterans absolutely shouldn’t be penalized for Senator Isakson’s bureaucratic mismanagement,” said Jim Barksdale, Democratic candidate for US Senate. “Senator Isakson owes answers to Georgia’s veterans as to whether he’s either the worst kind of hypocrite for blaming the Pentagon for his own failure to act or if he’s simply failing yet again as Chairman of the Senate’s Veterans Affairs Committee by being out of touch and ineffective on urgent issues. There’s no third option.”
As more information becomes available about the California National Guard members, it’s becoming evident that members of Congress have known about this situation for as long as seven years and have done nothing. According to the Los Angeles Times’ reporting, this issue was first flagged in 2009, raised (and declined) for inclusion for inclusion in the annual National Defense Authorization Act that funds our military in 2014, and was finally included as part of the House version of this year’s National Defense Authorization Act that has been in conference committee for three months (See Section 642, “Statute of Limitations on Department of Defense Recovery of Amounts Owed to the United States by Members of the Uniformed Services, Including Retired and Former Members”).
“We welcome Secretary Carter’s decision today to suspend collection of California enlistment bonuses. As a next step, we must immediately install a fast track process within the Army—not the Army Board for Correction of Military Records—to break the bottleneck for appeals,” said Gregory Minchak, Communications Director of Jim Barksdale for Senate. “But this isn’t the end of this story. The Pentagon has signaled this issue may be expanded to more states, which could include Georgia. Has Senator Isakson spoken to the Chief of the National Guard Bureau yet about whether Georgia is implicated? If no, why not? If Senator Isakson was doing his job, he’d already have fixed this situation rather than putting the blame on others.”