WASHINGTON, D.C. (June 16) – A mobilization status that provides unequal benefits to the active and reserve components is a readiness issue, the president of NGAUS told members of Congress Thursday.
Speaking at a hearing of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, retired Brig. Gen. Roy Robinson said, “[This is] not just a National Guard and Reserve issue. It’s actually an issue that the country needs to pick up on because the readiness of those forces are tied to the benefits that they’re not currently going to receive under 12304b orders.”
Other organizations testifying at the hearing were the Student Veterans of America, the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars. The committee chairman is Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga.
Under 12304b, Guard and Reserve members who deploy for preplanned missions like those in Kosovo and the Sinai don’t receive the same benefits as their active-component counterparts. For example, reserve-component members receive no Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits and have no TRICARE coverage before or after the mobilization. And they receive no credit toward early retirement pay.
“Some of the leadership is just now coming around and understanding what the soldiers don’t get when they’re on a 12304b status,” Robinson said. “Unless people dig in to the intricacies of all the benefits that they’re not being awarded through 12304b, they may not understand that it actually turns into a readiness issue.”
Established in 2012, the mobilization status enables the services to mobilize the Guard and Reserve for continuing overseas operations. However, it does not provide the benefits conveyed under other mobilization authorities.
The Defense Department is working to consolidate the 32 statutory authorities in which members of the reserve components may be ordered to federal duty. The effort may address the shortcomings of 12304b.
But NGAUS is concerned full implementation of duty-status reform will take many years to implement, which is why Robinson urged the immediate passage of the Educational Development for Troops and Veterans Act, S. 473, co-sponsored by the committee’s ranking member, Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont.
“This common sense bill would ensure that all deployed reserve-component members would receive Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits equal to those enjoyed by active component members,” Robinson said. “It would also protect them from lost wages while deployed and allow Guardsmen to defer their federal student loan payments prior to deployments.”
Robinson also voiced the organization’s support for other legislation, including:
- 410, the Shawna Hill Post 9/11 Education Transferability Act, which allows reassignment of veterans’ education benefits in cases where the designated beneficiary passes away;
- 798, the Yellow Ribbon Improvement Act of 2017, which would expand eligibility for the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Yellow Ribbon Program to recipients of the Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry Scholarship;
- 882, which would add Purple Heart recipients to the list of eligible veterans who can access full Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits;
- 1218, the Empowering Federal Employment for Veterans Act, which would benefit members of the Guard by requiring federal agencies to have full-time advocates for veterans’ employment; and
- 1277,the Veterans Employment Through Technology Education Courses, which would allow Guardsmen to learn valuable skills including computer coding and programming as a VA educational benefit.