17K California Guard soldiers will keep disputed bonuses

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The Pentagon says more than 17,000 California National Guard soldiers won't have to repay more than $190 million in enlistment bonuses and other payments handed out in error between 2004 and 2010.

The decision closes several years of wrangling over whether to take the money back after an audit revealed overpayments as the Guard faced pressure to hit enlistment goals during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Bonuses of up to $15,000 and loan aid were offered.

A Pentagon report sent to Congressional committees on July 31 says 17,092 soldiers will not have to repay the money and will be refunded if they already did. It says 393 soldiers will not get relief because they didn't fulfill their enlistment terms.

The decision was first reported Friday by the Los Angeles Times.
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