By Debbie Gregory.
U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) have introduced legislation to close the benefits gap for members of the National Guard and Reserve forces deployed on certain pre-planned missions overseas.
The National Guard and Reserves Benefit Parity Act, “addresses gaps in early retirement eligibility, high-deployment allowance, and pay reductions for mobilized federal civilian employees
Rep. Steven Palazzo, R-Miss., and Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., introduced the bill in the House, H.R. 5038.
“I’m proud to introduce this important piece of legislation with Senator Wicker that will fix the benefits parity gap that disadvantage the National Guard and Reserves,” said Senator Coons. “I will continue to work with my Republican counterparts to pass this bill into law this year to ensure that our nation’s Guardsmen and Reservists are given the benefits they have earned.”
The 2012 version of the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) established a new mobilization authority allowing the Department of Defense to deploy Guard and Reserve forces for pre-planned missions, known as “12304b” missions, in support of combatant commanders. Although these Reserve Component members perform the same duties as their active-duty counterparts, they were not eligible to receive the same benefits.
The National Guard and Reserves Benefit Parity Act closes the gap by:
- Reducing the age at which a Guardsman or Reservist is eligible to receive military retirement pay by three months for every 90 days mobilized under 12304b authority within a single fiscal year;
- Providing officers and enlisted 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
- Protecting 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.
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.