NGAUS Applauds Action to Close Benefits Gap Between Deployed Active, Guard Troops

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John Goheen
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john.goheen@ngaus.org

WASHINGTON (Jan. 6, 2020) — Deployed National Guardsmen and Reservists now have benefits parity with their active-component counterparts thanks to a bipartisan effort in Congress.

The fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) includes language that provides Guardsmen and Reservists mobilized under authority 12304b with a benefit they were previously denied — credit towards early retirement pay.

Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., were the driving forces behind the provision in the Senate. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, and Rep. Steven Palazzo, R-Miss., the co-chairs of the House National Guard and Reserve Caucus, pushed it in the House.

“Equal work and sacrifice deserve equal pay and benefits,” said retired Brig. Gen. J. Roy Robinson, the NGAUS president. “We applaud the four legislators for recognizing this and winning the support of their colleagues.”

Congress worked hard in the early years of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to close the longstanding benefits gap between the active component and the Guard and Reserve, Robinson said. However, the disparity reopened in 2012 with the creation of 12304b.

The new mobilization authority gave the services easy access to the Guard and Reserve for so-called preplanned missions, but it did not provide premobilization and transitional health care or credit toward GI Bill educational benefits and early retirement.

Those benefits are included under other mobilization authorities, and Guardsmen and Reservists and their families have come to rely on them to ease the burdens of overseas missions. Active-component members receive health care and credit toward the GI Bill and retirement even when not deployed.

Tens of thousands of Guardsmen and Reservists have mobilized for overseas duty under 12304b in recent years. Examples include peacekeeping mission in Kosovo and on the Sinai Peninsula.

Congress added education benefits and premobilization and transitional health care to 12304b in 2017, but the lack of credit toward early retirement remained. The early retirement program enables Guardsmen and Reservists with 20 qualifying years to receive their pension three months earlier than the traditional age of 60 for every 90 days mobilized since January 2008.

Until the president signed the fiscal 2020 NDAA on Dec. 20, service under 12304b did not count toward early retirement. Now it does, Robinson said, thanks in large part to Wicker and Coons in the Senate and Ryan and Palazzo in the House.

“I was glad to work with Senator Coons, the National Guard Association, and others to close the remaining gaps in benefits for our Guardsmen and Reservists who make the same sacrifices for our nation as their active-duty counterparts,” Wicker said.

“Members of the Guard and Reserves in Delaware and around the country should have access to the full range of benefits they deserve,” Coons said. “The defense authorization bill is critical to our national security and our service members, and I’m glad to see that this year’s bill helps to ensure that Guardsmen and Reservists are fairly compensated.”

“As the co-chair of the bipartisan National Guard and Reserve Caucus, I’m proud we finally closed the loophole that left some Guardsmen without the benefits they earned,” Ryan said. “Retirement, GI Bill and TRICARE health care benefits will no longer depend on an arbitrary number on their orders.”

“With passage of this year’s NDAA, we can finally close the book on this injustice,” Palazzo said. “Through multiple pieces of legislation passed over the years, we have successfully clawed back the benefits that our Guard and Reserve have rightly earned, and I am proud to have been part of that.”