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US Rep. Esty Helps Afghanistan Vet Of Danbury Reclaim Bonus

U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty helped a city veteran recoup his National Guard bonuses.
U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty helped a city veteran recoup his National Guard bonuses. Photo Credit: ElizabethEsty.com

DANBURY, Conn. -- A Danbury veteran whose National Guard bonus had been rescinded got a refund in November after reaching out for help from U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty.

Esty came to the aid of David Vieira in securing the refund from the California National Guard after the wrongful clawback of his bonus.

Vieira is among 10,000 veterans who share this predicament, according to a release from Esty's office.

Their bonuses were rescinded following the conclusion of their service, the Los Angeles Times reported in October.

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.

While Vieira has received his, millions of veterans have not received their gotten their bonuses back, the release said.

Vieira joined the Connecticut National Guard in 2007, and then transferred to the California National Guard in August 2008.

He served in Afghanistan from 2010-11, and was honorably discharged in 2013.

As an incentive for enrolling in the National Guard, Vieira was issued a Student Loan Replacement Program 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 Veteran's Administration 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," said Vieira.

"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."

This issue followed Vieira when he moved to Danbury from California in 2011.

He contacted Esty for help earlier this year. She 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," said the release.

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.

Finally, in November, Esty got word 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.

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