National Guardsman suing over being billed for re-enlistment bonus, hoping for class-action lawsuit

California National Guard Sgt. Byran Strother during an interview with the Redding Record Searchlight. (Screenshot from video below)

An Army sergeant, who was given an incentive bonus to re-enlist in the National Guard, is still pursuing a federal lawsuit despite Secretary Ash Carter telling the Pentagon to suspend all collection efforts.

Sgt. Bryan Strother filed a lawsuit in February after he was told he needed to pay back the $25,000 for his re-enlistment in 2007 and his student loans.

Daniel Willman, Strother’s lawyer, said the recent decision from the Pentagon is “not a remedy for the problem, but more a suspension of their actions in going after money from these veterans.”

“The contractual obligations in question were followed in good faith,” Willman said to Record Searchlight. “We want to trigger a class-action lawsuit.”

Strother received a letter about six months after filing the lawsuit that stated he fulfilled his contractual obligations but still owed the government up to $5,000 for the student loans.

To avoid penalties from his outstanding $5,000 debt, he recently made the decision to re-enlist for another six-year contract with the National Guard.

Strother told the newspaper his lawsuit is not about money, but about being billed after the National Guard created policies that allowed recruiters to entice soldiers to enlist.

“I risked my life for those payments,” Strother said. “I had just returned from Middle East for deployment within the year before going back. I had a young daughter who couldn’t even remember her last name when I came back. It was hard and I fulfilled that in good faith.”

A federal investigation in 2010 found thousands of bonuses and student loan payments were improperly doled out to California Guard soldiers by recruiters under pressure to meet their enlistment goals.

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