New GI Bill Includes Benefit for Guardsmen

Washington Report

(August 8, 2017) National Guardsmen and Reservists are one big step closer to benefits parity with their active-component brothers and sisters thanks to some swift, bipartisan action in Congress.

The Senate last week followed identical House action last month and passed the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Education Assistance Act. Better known as the “Forever GI Bill,” it would remove for new enlistees the 15-year time limit to use their benefit.

The legislation has gone to the president, and the White House has indicated President Donald Trump will sign it.

A provision in the bill would also provide education benefits to Guardsmen and Reservists mobilized under authority 12304b. Currently, they are not eligible for GI Bill benefits even though they serve alongside active-component troops who do receive them.

The Pentagon has mobilized thousands of Guardsmen and Reservists under 12304b for overseas missions since Congress created the authority in 2012. Those troops would be retroactively eligible for education benefits under the legislation.

And the National Guard Bureau expects the Army and the Air Force to increase their use of 12304b, which provides the services with easy access to the Guard and Reserve.

The bill would also increase education benefits for Purple Heart recipients and for the family members of fallen troops. It also provides credit toward education benefits for the time Guardsmen and Reservists have spent on medical hold (12301h) since 2008. Currently, they do not receive such credit.

NGAUS attributes the bill’s passage to bipartisan collaboration among the leaders of the congressional veterans’ affairs committees, Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., and Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., in the House and Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., in the Senate.

Education benefits are only one of three nearly universal benefits currently denied to Guardsmen and Reservists when mobilized under 12304b.

The association continues to work with Congress on the lack of TRICARE health coverage before and after mobilization and no credit for early retirement under 12304b.