Pentagon suspends Operation Clawback after public outrage over payback of California Guard enlistment bonuses

WASHINGTON — A decade ago, the Pentagon needed soldiers to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, so it decided to entice troops by offering bonuses of $15,000 or more to reenlist.

In 2010, after reports surfaced of erroneous overpayments, a federal investigation discovered widespread fraud and mismanagement by California National Guard officials, which led to bonuses and student loan payments given to soldiers who did not qualify for them, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Nearly 10,000 soldiers were ordered to back pay back enlistment bonuses — with interest. Those that refused had their wages garnished and were hit with tax liens.

To avoid a public relations disaster, the Pentagon suspended debt collection on Wednesday after criticism from Republicans and Democrats in Congress.

The announcement does not end the reimbursement process, but postpones collections efforts until the government comes up with a long-term solution, according to the Associated Press.

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