Bills Address Controversial Mobilization Authority

Washington Report

(July 18, 2017) Two pieces of legislation in Congress would add parity to the mobilization authority that compensates reserve-component members less than it does active-component troops serving alongside them.

A new version of the GI Bill would give National Guardsmen and Reservists the Post 9/11 GI Bill benefit if they mobilize under 12304b authority. And the fiscal 2018 National Defense Authorization Act that passed the House last week would provide TRICARE before and after their service under that authority.

Currently, reserve-component members receive neither of those benefits under 12304b. They also do not receive full credit for early retirement

Also, the bill awards the education benefit retroactively, affecting the thousands of Guardsmen and Reservists who have already mobilized.

The mobilization status allows the Pentagon to call up Guardsmen and Reservists for preplanned overseas missions such as those in Kosovo and Sinai, Egypt, but minimizes their compensation compared to that received by active-component troops on the same mission.

NGAUS has pointed out that this is inherently unfair, as well as an issue of readiness.

“As these soldiers and airmen come out of one mobilization, as they are going through the reintegration process, they are actually preparing and becoming ready for the next mobilization,” retired Brig. Gen. Roy Robinson, the NGAUS president, told a Senate panel last month. “This is an issue that the country needs to pay closer attention to because the readiness of those forces is intrinsically tied to the benefits that they are not currently receiving under 12304b orders.”

Those remarks were included in a written statement to the House Veterans Affairs Committee, which held a hearing Monday evening on the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017, the new GI Bill legislation.

Robinson gave the bill the full endorsement of NGAUS. It was introduced by Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., the chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, and Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn.

It also covers mobilizations under 12304a, which involves a callup during wartime or a national emergency declared by Congress, and 12301h, which allows a service member to be called to duty for medical care or evaluation.

Rep. Steven Palazzo, R-Miss., said in a statement last week when the bill was introduced, “Today’s bill is a huge milestone in helping to ensure that all of those who are putting their lives on the line for our country are given the benefits they have earned.”

The legislation also ends the 15-year deadline for using the benefit, creating lifetime eligibility, and makes the benefit available to all Purple Heart recipients, ending a requirement that they must serve for three years to qualify. It also provides greater benefits to reserve-component members who have served fewer than three years on active duty.

Quick action is planned for the legislation, perhaps this week by the House Veterans Affairs Committee and before the months’ end by the entire House. The Senate will consider a similar bill from Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee chairman.