Proposed Legislation Could Increase GI Bill Benefits for Guard, Reservists
Increased GI Bill Benefits for National Guard and Reservists with Proposed Legislation
In mid-March, the Guard and Reserve GI Bill Parity Act of 2021 was introduced, which would make it easier for National Guard and Reserve servicemembers to accumulate GI Bill benefits.
“House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Vice Chair Mike Levin (D-CA) and Chair Mark Takano (D-CA) reintroduced the bipartisan” bill on March 11. It was originally introduced to Congress in February of 2020, but referred back to the Veterans’ Affairs committee. The bill aims to create uniformity in GI Bill benefits for Guard and Reservists “who increasingly conduct similar training and missions as other servicemembers, but do not receive equal benefits.” More specifically, the bill expands the benefit eligibility of the Post-9/11 GI Bill to count each day that any activated servicemember is paid and in uniform; this specification of each paid day in service should help eliminate “confusion over which types of duty allow Guard troops to qualify for federal education benefits.”
Current Service Requirements
Currently, National Guard members are required to serve 90 days (at least 30 days of continuous service) to reach eligibility for Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits. Automatic qualification is granted to Purple Heart recipients. While the average Guardsman does serve around 60 days during a normal year, without any missions or deployments, one “day in the Guard doesn’t always equal one day of service.” Required weekend and annual training does not count toward benefit eligibility.
“Fairness to the way GI Bill benefits are earned…”
Of the intent behind the bill, Rep. Levin released a statement saying, “This bill will bring some basic fairness to the way GI Bill benefits are earned and provide Guard and Reserve members with the benefits they deserve. I look forward to advancing this bill on behalf of the thousands of Guard members who [have recently] defended our Capitol and many others who have sacrificed for our country.”
Since 9/11, the role of the Reserve Component has changed drastically. Originally created as a strategic division, they have now evolved into an integral and operational part of U.S. defense. “Servicemembers from the Active and Reserve Components often train and serve alongside each other… but do not receive equal benefits.” While this alone is enough support for a bill of this nature, the most recent catalyst for its reintroduction came after the announcement “that 2,300 National Guard troops [would] remain deployed in Washington, D.C., at least until May 23, 2021,” a response to the recent insurgence on our nation’s capital.
Rep. Takano released a statement highlighting, “Time and time again, through natural disasters, global pandemics, and threats to our democracy, our National Guard and Reserve members have answered the call to serve. But despite taking on the same risks and doing the same jobs as their Active Duty counterparts, these servicemembers don’t have access to the same benefits. That’s not right.”
Many Guard and Reservists are in agreement
And the masses agree with Rep. Takano. One Reddit user said of this disparity, “deploying to a combat zone for at least six months should qualify a guardsman for 100% GI Bill. It’s outrageous that people who are basically in a jobs program doing nothing in the motor pool for three years and never deploy receive 100% and they do not.”
Another commented, “when I went to college, I was receiving 60% of the Post 9/11 GI Bill. I had finished a 400 day mobilization for my deployment to Iraq so that was all I got. It was still a great benefit to have… but sometimes I had to dip into retirement savings to pay the difference. I had other Vets in my classes who had been on active duty but had never left the state of California and were receiving the full benefit. Yes they earned it by the letter of the law, but there is little difference between my stateside drills/annual training/NCOES/etc and theirs. If I had been allowed to count all of my Reserve time I would have received 70% which would have made a big difference for me. I really hope this becomes law. Granted Reserve and Guard wouldn’t earn the benefit as fast, but it would be better than what they get now.”
Long-awaited Legislation has widespread support
There is widespread support for this long-awaited legislation among those in positions to support the military community, as well. Veterans Education Project (VEP) Legislative Director Donald Franklin said, “These brave men and women are long overdue the benefits befitting their service.” Lt. Gen. Dana Atkins, USAF (Ret), MOAA president and CEO voiced, “The expanded eligibility under [this act] takes a major step forward by recognizing the reserve component’s sacrifice to our nation and rewarding their service with education benefits like their active-duty counterparts.” And Command Sergeant Major (Retired) Karen Craig, President of the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States responded, “We appreciate the[se] efforts… to ensure that members of the National Guard and Reserve are eligible for the GI Bill benefits they deserve based on their increased service to our nation. The National Guard activated over 187,000 servicemembers last year, and this legislation will ensure they receive GI Bill benefits equal to their active-duty counterparts, regardless of status.”
Whether this proposed legislation will be passed is still up in the air, but those in support of it are dedicated to making sure it remains a priority. With the larger focus currently residing strongly on pandemic response efforts, supporters hope that it can be “included in the annual defense authorization bill expected to pass later this fall.”
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