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Palazzo, Walz, Franks & Shea-Porter Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Ensure Fairness in Benefits among Deployed Troops

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Yesterday, U.S. Representatives Steven Palazzo (R-MS-04), Tim Walz (D-MN-01), Trent Franks (R-AZ-08) and Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH-01) introduced H.R. 1384, a comprehensive, bipartisan bill to provide fairness to certain mobilized National Guard and Reserve Component service members by extending to them eligibility for certain benefits available to Active Component forces that deploy to carry out equivalent duties.
The 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) gave the Department of Defense (DoD) the authority to order National Guard and Reserve Components “to active duty for preplanned missions in support of the combatant commands.” While this expanded power (12304b authority) has provided DoD a cost-effective means of meeting the needs of combatant commanders through the deployment of National Guard and Reserve Component forces, the 2012 NDAA failed to extend eligibility to National Guard and Reserve Component troops for health care, education, leave, pay, and retirement benefits. In effect, H.R. 1384 will correct this inconsistency by granting Guard and Reserve members access to these benefits, such as earning tuition funds through the Post-9/11 GI Bill to pursue higher education, and the provision of family health care services prior to and after mobilization.
“Our Guard and Reserve troops have been fighting alongside our active duty component for over 15 years,” said Rep. Palazzo. “In fact, many of the best performing units in the military come from the Reserve and Guard, yet the DoD has created a scenario where our soldiers are receiving less than equal treatment.  Giving our troops equal benefits for equal service is simply a no-brainer.  We should ensure that all of those who are putting their lives on the line for our country are given the benefits they have so bravely and selflessly earned.”
“This commonsense legislation is about recognizing the sacrifice of all our men and women who volunteer freely to serve this nation,” said Rep. Tim Walz. “Ensuring fairness in health care, education and pension benefits to National Guard and Reserve Component troops who answer the call to serve right alongside their Active Component counterparts is the right thing to do. I thank Reps. Palazzo, Shea-Porter and Franks, our VSO partners, and most importantly, our veterans for fighting to bring these brave Americans and their families the peace of mind that comes with knowing they will no longer be denied benefits they deserve.”
"To whom do we owe more than those in service to this great nation? Our service men and women sacrifice daily so that we may live in freedom,” said Rep. Franks. “This legislation ensures our Reserve and National Guard service members are eligible for the same benefits as their Active Duty brothers and sisters when mobilized by the Department of Defense.”
“Our National Guard and Reserve members deserve the same benefits as those they serve with,” said Rep. Shea-Porter. “It is unfair and unacceptable that some service members are being denied benefits because of the way they were called up for service. Over the past several years, National Guard members deployed overseas have been denied TRICARE health benefits, Post-9/11 GI Bill education benefits, and credit for retirement pay. Our legislation will fix this problem and ensure that all service members who are called to duty receive the health, education, and retirement benefits they earned serving our country.”
Since enactment of the 2012 NDAA, Guard and Reserve component forces have been mobilized under the 12304b authority to support: the Multinational Force Observers mission in the Sinai, Egypt; NATO’s Operation Joint Guardian in Kosovo; and most recently, the European Reassurance Initiative, countering Russian aggression in Eastern Europe, to name just a few.
Testimonial excerpts from deployed soldiers:
From a Sergeant: “It is my duty to listen to Soldiers’ problems and to assist them if possible… These Soldiers are frustrated as they are working side-by-side with Active Duty Soldiers and completing the same mission though they are not receiving equal benefits.”
From a Military Intelligence Analyst: “I look forward to pursuing my Master’s degree, although without the educational benefits I was hoping for, I will have to wait until I deploy again… I see disappointment on the faces of those of us who were told time and time again that we would be taken care of for the sacrifices we make.”
From an Infantry Squad Leader: “Although I enjoy the opportunity to serve my country and state, I was surprised to find out that we do not qualify for many of the benefits that I received on my past two deployments. I later found out that the active duty Soldiers that I’m currently deployed with do qualify for these benefits, which my fellow Guardsmen and I feel is unfair."
From an Infantry Platoon Sergeant: “There is no doubt in my mind that morale and retention have suffered due to this disparity in benefits. Many of the Soldiers were counting on receiving these benefits, most notably the credit towards increasing their Post 9‐11 GI Bill.”
From a Communication Specialist: “How do I explain to my National Guard Soldiers that their work while on this deployment is not recognized the same as the work of their Active Duty counterparts because of a pay order?”
From an Infantry Company Commander: "The unit we replaced -- 1st Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment -- is an active duty cavalry squadron. Every Soldier with 1-2 CR accrued Post-9/11 GI Bill, VA, and retirement benefits for every day they spent preparing and executing their mission in the Sinai Peninsula."
Effective upon passage, this bipartisan legislation would provide the following benefits to National Guard and Reserve Component troops mobilized under the 12304b authority that are currently offered to Active Component forces:
Pre-mobilization and post mobilization access to TRICARE.
TRICARE coverage for dependents of service members before and after mobilization.
Reduction in age for eligibility of retired pay for National Guard and Reserve soldiers called to active duty.
Access to Post-9/11 GI Bill Benefits.
Accumulation of high-tempo deployment allowance for service; thus preventing National Guard soldiers from being sent on rapid, successive deployments.
Protection of eligibility for training and rehabilitation services interrupted by deployments.
No reduction in federal pay for federal employees mobilized under 12304b.
H.R. 1384 is endorsed by the National Guard Association of the United States (NGAUS), the Reserve Officers Association (ROA), the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States (EANGUS), the Minnesota National Guard Enlisted Association (MNGEA), The American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States (VFW), the United States Army Warrant Officers Association (USAWOA), the Student Veterans of America (SVA) and the Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH).


3/8/17

Posted March 9, 2017 - 2:20 am

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