Refusal to honor Guard contracts needs investigation

The Oregon congressional delegation has asked the Inspector General of the National Guard Bureau to investigate the Guard’s refusal to honor bonus contracts signed by members of the Oregon National Guard.

Six members of the Oregon National Guard have contacted Oregon’s congressional offices seeking help after the Guard failed to honor the second half of bonus contracts.

The letter from the delegation to the Inspector General cites the example of PFC Chelsea Wells, a Milton-Freewater native, who enlisted in Dec. 2007 and signed a contract for a $20,000 bonus. The first half of the bonus was paid on time following her initial training. However, when she was due to receive the second half of her bonus in Dec. 2010, the Guard refused to pay, claiming that she was never qualified in the first place. Worse yet, the Guard said it intends to seek recoupment of the first half of the bonus.

“As a country, we ask these brave men and women to serve their country and promise to compensate them for their service,” the members of Oregon’s Congressional delegation wrote to Inspector General H. Cronin Byrd. “These soldiers should not be punished due to a potential clerical error by the Guard. They deserve better than a bait and switch from Uncle Sam.”

We request that you swiftly investigate the violation of these contracts by the Guard to resolve why these soldiers will be unfairly punished for mistakes outside of their control,” they wrote. “Furthermore, we understand that the problem is not isolated to soldiers in Oregon, and we fear that many soldiers that have been denied some or all of their bonuses have not come forward to tell their stories. How many soldiers, both in Oregon and nationwide, have been denied bonuses in a similar fashion to PFC Wells?”

Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, and U.S. Reps. Greg Walden, Earl Blumenauer, Peter DeFazio, Kurt Schrader, and David Wu signed the letter.

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