- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 26, 2016

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - The New Mexico National Guard is working to see if soldiers received improper enlistment bonuses like those reportedly paid to some soldiers in California, New Mexico National Guard Joseph Vigil said Wednesday.

But Vigil said the examination into bonuses is routine and has nothing to do with the California probe. “It’s something we routinely done and is not because of California,” he said.

Vigil did not say whether officials have uncovered examples of New Mexico guard members receiving improper enlistment bonuses but said in a statement that “we here in New Mexico are doing our due diligence to determine if any of our members are affected by this matter.”

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter on Wednesday ordered the Pentagon to suspend its effort to seek repayments of enlistment bonuses given to thousands of California National Guard members who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The announcement does not end the reimbursement process but postpones collection efforts while the Pentagon and Congress look for a long-term solution.

Vigil said recovery of bonuses given to guard members is a routine matter when “a soldier or airman fails to live up to his or her enlistment contract.”

He added: “We will work to identify and resolve any issues related to this matter to ensure that we fulfill our commitment to our Guard members as well as our taxpayers.”

Carter’s decision followed angry reaction from congressional Republicans and Democrats who demanded he relieve the burden on Guard members following a Los Angeles Times report last weekend that California soldiers were being asked to repay debts that in some cases totaled more than $25,000.

The White House said earlier this week that President Barack Obama had warned the Defense Department not to “nickel and dime” soldiers who were victims of wrongdoing by overzealous recruiters.

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This story corrects that the New Mexico National Guard is conducting a routine review of bonuses paid to soldiers and is not investigating the bonuses in reaction to a report about bonuses paid to California solders that the Pentagon wants returned.

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