Deployed National Guardsmen and Reservists may achieve parity in pay and benefits with active-duty troops under bipartisan bills introduced in Congress last week.
The National Guard and Reserves Benefit Parity Act, "addresses early retirement eligibility, high-deployment allowance and pay for mobilized federal civilian employees," according to a press release from the National Guard Association of the United States (NGAUS).
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 NGAUS president, retired Brig. Gen. Roy Robinson. "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 press release stated. "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, the press release said.
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.
--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.
--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 be 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, according to NGAUS.
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, the press release stated.
Robinson said the issue of pay and benefit parity for Guard and Reserve troops 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."
This article is written by James Neal from Enid News & Eagle, Okla. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to email@example.com.