House Armed Services Committee officials will hold a public hearing on the California National Guard bonus scandal when they return to Capitol Hill after Thanksgiving break.
The hearing, scheduled for Dec. 7, will include testimony from Army Maj. Gen. David Baldwin, adjutant general of California, and other officials involved in the controversial recoupment of decade-old bonuses from guard members and veterans, according to a committee aide.
The hearing was first reported by The Hill on Friday.
Last month, lawmakers reacted with outrage after a Los Angeles Times investigation uncovered nearly 10,000 current and former soldiers who had thousands of dollars in enlistment bonuses revoked, leaving some individuals facing significant financial hardships.
The move came due to reports of rampant fraud and abuse of the bonus system among state Guard officials in the mid-2000s, although only a portion of the individuals ordered to repay money were accused of wrongdoing. In response to the public outcry, Pentagon officials announced plans to halt debt collections related to the issue and work faster to resolve individual appeals. But the decisions did not permanently change existing administrative rules or wipe out the debts entirely.
Many lawmakers have called for that, and House Armed Services Committee leaders are expected to include some language on the issue in their final draft of the annual defense authorization bill expected next month.
December’s hearing will go beyond those legislative fixes to address problems that lead up to the California problem and may offer potential fixes for troops and veterans with similar issues in other states.
The event is also likely to be contentious. California Guard officials have accused Congress of politicizing the issue, saying they alerted lawmakers and staff about the bonus clawbacks several years ago, receiving no criticism of the planned effort.
Lawmakers have countered that those warnings were unclear and unfair to troops, since defense officials appear to be punishing individuals who did nothing wrong.
Only a few congressional hearings are expected to be scheduled for December, as lawmakers work on finalizing key bills before the end of the legislative session in early January.