Esty Successfully Intervenes to Reverse Clawback of Danbury Veteran’s Bonus
DANBURY, CT—Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty (CT-5) this week shared a “Constituent Corner” story from Danbury resident David Vieira, who reached out to Esty for assistance in securing a refund from the California National Guard after the wrongful clawback of his bonus.
Vieira was one of nearly 10,000 American veterans to have their bonuses rescinded following the conclusion of their service, as publicized in October by the Los Angeles Times. The Department of Defense eventually suspended its efforts to recoup the bonuses, but it has as yet offered no monetary compensation to repay veterans whose bonuses were already recouped over the last decade. Unlike Vieira, millions of veterans have not received their recouped bonuses back.
Vieira joined the Connecticut National Guard in 2007, and then transferred to the California National Guard in August 2008. He served in Afghanistan from 2010-2011, and was honorably discharged in 2013. As an incentive for enrolling in the National Guard, Vieira was issued a Student Loan Replacement Program (SLRP) incentive. Bonuses like the one Vieira received were issued to National Guard members across California.
In 2012, just within a year of returning home from Afghanistan, Vieira received a notice of debt to the National Guard, which insisted he repay his SLRP incentive bonus. The U.S. Treasury Department informed Vieira it would soon begin deducting hundreds of dollars each week from his VA pension until this debt was paid off. The Pentagon had determined the National Guard had no right to issue these bonuses, and as part of the National Guard’s efforts to reclaim lost monies, began issuing debt notices to Guard members.
“I am an Army Afghanistan veteran and I was one of the first veterans in California to be affected by this bonus recoupment issue. The issue was new, and no one knew how to deal with it. I reached out to military and government officials in California for assistance, but struggled to find anyone willing to listen to my case, and to help me through this impossible battle,” Vieira said.
This issue followed Vieira as he moved in 2011 from California to Danbury, CT, where he currently resides. Earlier this year, he reached out to Esty for assistance in resolving this issue.
Esty worked with the California State Military Reserve, California National Guard, and National Guard Bureau to ensure all of Vieira’s bonus repayments would be expedited and refunded. Esty also released a statement denouncing the payments, calling the Pentagon’s clawback efforts “misguided.” Additionally, Esty wrote to Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and National Guard Bureau Chief General Joseph Lengyel to thank them for suspending the bonus collections, and called on them to work with Congress to find a permanent solution. She also wrote to the U.S. House leadership urging Congress to remain vigilant and work with Department of Defense to find a solution to end unfair bonus recoupments.
After months of communicating back and forth with military agencies, Esty received word in November that Vieira’s case had been settled and he would be repaid in full.
“By the time I moved from California to Connecticut, I had begun to lose hope that anyone would help me reclaim the monies I knew were rightfully mine I have been lucky to have the support of Rep. Esty and her staff,” Vieira said. “I am sure that hundreds if not thousands of others have not been so fortunate and have found themselves fighting this battle alone.
“It was refreshing to hear that Rep. Esty cared enough to really help, as my previous experiences led me to believe that moving forward on this issue would never happen. I am glad that she is on the forefront of this issue now, and I pray that with her assistance we can help the thousands of others who desperately need a voice in Washington and at home to get them the resolution they deserve, that they earned. She is doing the right thing by trying to address and fix a broken system after hearing stories of hardship and mistreatment of our veterans.”
“These fine veterans, including David, served heroically and with distinction – in some cases placing their lives on the line through multiple tours of duty,” Esty said. “For our government to demand that our veterans return the compensation that was promised to them after they served was immoral and un-American, and it imposed an unfair financial hardship on thousands of American families. I am pleased to see this case favorably resolved for David, and I hope every single veteran affected by these clawbacks is able to find relief.”
Residents in central and northwest Connecticut who are having difficulty with veterans’ services or their benefits are encouraged to call Esty’s office at 860-223-8412.
“Constituent Corner” highlights stories from folks who have sought assistance with the federal government through Esty’s office. To see other Constituent Corner stories, visit https://esty.house.gov/about/constituent-corner.