WASHINGTON (Feb. 21, 2018) — Deployed National Guardsmen and Reservists are closer than ever to benefits parity with active-component troops thanks to bipartisan bills introduced in Congress last week.
The National Guard and Reserves Benefit Parity Act, which has the full support of NGAUS, addresses early retirement eligibility, high-deployment allowance and pay for mobilized federal civilian employees.
Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., introduced the Senate version of the legislation, S. 2416. Rep. Steven Palazzo, R-Miss., and Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., introduced the bill in the House, H.R. 5038.
“Equal work and sacrifice deserves equal pay and benefits,” said retired Brig. Gen. Roy Robinson, the NGAUS president. “We applaud the four sponsors for recognizing this and moving our force closer to a goal everyone should be able to support.”
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. The disparity, however, reopened after the creation of mobilization authority 12304b in 2012.
The new authority enabled the services to easily mobilize and deploy Guardsmen and Reservists for preplanned missions, but without education benefits, premobilization and transitional health care, credit toward early retirement and other benefits.
Members of the Guard and Reserve and their families had come to rely on the benefits to ease the burdens of overseas missions. Such benefits have long been staples of active-component service.
Congress added education benefits and premobilization and transitional health care to 12304b last year. Palazzo and Walz were instrumental in the actions, Robinson said.
The National Guard and Reserves Benefit Parity Act is the next step, he said, in closing the gap. It would:
- Reduce by three months the age at which a Guardsman or Reservist is eligible to receive military retirement pay for every 90 days mobilized under 12304b within a single fiscal year;
- Provide Guardsmen and Reservists with a monthly allowance for each month during which they are deployed, if they meet criteria already defined under other mobilization authorities; and
- Protect federal civilian employees who are members of the Reserve or National Guard from a reduction in pay when activated by providing a “reservist differential” payment, which already exists under other mobilization authorities.
“And the timing couldn’t better as the Pentagon is increasing its use of 12304b to deploy the Guard and Reserve around the world,” Robinson said.
The Pentagon has mobilized approximately 4,000 Guardsmen under 12304b for missions such as peacekeeping in Kosovo and the Sinai Peninsula since 2012. But the National Guard Bureau expects the Army and the Air Force to increase their use of the new authority, mobilizing more than 13,000 Guardsmen total over the next two years.
Robinson said the issue here goes beyond fairness.
“Benefit issues affect morale and readiness, he said. “If we want our soldiers and airmen to protect us, we have to take care of them and their families in the best possible way.”
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