- - Wednesday, October 26, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

One of the most shocking indicators of where we are as a society emerged this last week as we learned the Pentagon was going after veterans to claw back bonuses paid to them for re-enlisting.

You see, 10 years ago we really needed more fighting men and women for both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, so the California National Guard offered bonuses of $15,000 and more to inspire our troops to re-enlist. Many did so in part because money was short, or there were no prospects in the civilian world, or both.

These veterans who served multiple tours in the battlefield accepted the offer of their government and completed their part of the bargain. Now, 10 years later, they have been told they should never have been offered those bonuses and must pay it back.

The Los Angeles Times reported, “Nearly 10,000 soldiers, many of whom served multiple combat tours, have been ordered to repay large enlistment bonuses — and slapped with interest charges, wage garnishments and tax liens if they refuse — after audits revealed widespread overpayments by the California Guard at the height of the wars last decade. Investigations have determined that lack of oversight allowed for widespread fraud and mismanagement by California Guard officials under pressure to meet enlistment targets.”

Outrageous is an understatement. The government, as is its nature, engaged in fraud and mismanagement. Normally when it does so, there is no price to pay, no efforts to rectify the situation. But here we have our veterans, our heroes who, through no fault of their own, accepted an offer by the government, and now they are the ones to be throttled?

While threatening and suing our veterans to send money back they no longer have, take a look at what else our government has been doing with your taxpayer dollars:

“The State Department misplaced and lost some $6 billion due to the improper filing of contracts during the past six years, mainly during the tenure of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, according to a newly released Inspector General report,” The Washington Times reported.

Disgraced, tea party-targeting former IRS employee Lois “Lerner’s pension could be as much as $102,600 a year, $3.96 million lifetime,” CNS News wrote.

In a report earlier this month on the hundreds of millions of dollars spent by the government on public relations specialists, Stephen Dinan wrote in this newspaper, “[On] Advertising and outside PR spending, the Pentagon led the way, averaging $626 million in contracts per year. HHS is second, averaging $117 million — though at one point it spent $236 million.”

But it doesn’t end there. Seniors who rely on Social Security, an insurance program they paid into most of their working lives, received notice that for the first time in two years they would receive a cost-of-living increase for 2017 — of $5 a month.

The priorities of the federal government seem clear: Ignore the financial improprieties of the government, which make bureaucrats and politicians rich; ignore a missing $6 billion from Mrs. Clinton’s State Department as though it’s the equivalent of a lost coffee cup; allow a pension of over six figures to a woman who supervised the IRS targeting of conservatives.

Yet, this same monstrosity with the power of the law over our lives decides that destroying any hope for decent health care for our veterans through the corrupt and craven Department of Veterans Affairs wasn’t enough, they now feel the need to sue our vets for money they no longer have. If that wasn’t enough, let’s stiff our seniors through Social Security because suddenly the Fed is worried about a budget?

Susan Haley, wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “a Los Angeles native and former Army master sergeant who deployed to Afghanistan in 2008 said she sends the Pentagon $650 a month — a quarter of her family’s income — to pay down $20,500 in bonuses that the Guard says were given to her improperly. ‘I feel totally betrayed,’ said Haley, 47, who served 26 years in the Army along with her husband and oldest son, a medic who lost a leg in combat in Afghanistan.”

While “Christopher Van Meter, a 42-year-old former Army captain and Iraq veteran from Manteca, Calif., says he refinanced his home mortgage to repay $25,000 in reenlistment bonuses and $21,000 in student loan repayments that the Army says he should not have received. ‘People like me just got screwed.’ “

Many are now expressing their outrage, including those in Congress. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, all from California, are outraged, just outraged, that this is happening. Yet, Military.com tells us Congress knew about this two years ago: “The California National Guard told the state’s members of Congress two years ago that the Pentagon was trying to claw back re-enlistment bonuses from thousands of soldiers, and even offered a proposal to mitigate the problem, but Congress took no action, according to a senior National Guard official.”

More lies, more obfuscation, and action only during an election year when they’ve been exposed.

While the details of this obscenity involve our troops, the reality is this highlights the very nature of what our government has become: a protector of the bureaucracy and abuser of the citizen. We are all better than this, and we have one chance to say enough is enough on Nov. 8 to this horrific bureaucratic status quo.

Tammy Bruce, author and Fox News contributor, is a radio talk show host.

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