Ill-defined eligibility requirements for Guard and Reserve members to receive Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits “are no longer acceptable,” according to a letter from MOAA and 14 other veterans organizations to leaders on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee (SVAC).
The letter seeks action on GI Bill parity before the end of the 117th Congress. It highlights two pieces of legislation: H.R. 1836, the Guard and Reserve GI Bill Parity Act, which passed the House in January, and S. 2644, the Guard, Reserve, and Active-Duty Department of Veterans Affairs Educational Assistance Parity (GRAD) Act, which was reported favorably from the SVAC in December 2021 but has seen no action since. The Senate has not taken up the House legislation.
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Servicemembers must perform 90 days of honorable service on active duty to qualify for benefits, but “active duty” leaves out many types of National Guard and Reserve service. The House bill would ensure all days spent in uniform on federal orders count toward the education benefit, while the GRAD Act would make progress toward that goal, albeit without counting some weekend and annual drill periods.
The current system unfairly discriminates against Guard and Reserve members because these individuals “can be activated for months, and even serve alongside Active Duty servicemembers while still being denied education benefits,” according to the letter, which was addressed to SVAC Chair Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and ranking member Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.).
The Post-9/11 GI Bill took effect in 2009. More than a decade later, Guard and Reserve members have seen record levels of mobilization; the National Guard had more than 8.4 million days of domestic active duty in 2020, per Army Times, and the Army National Guard alone chalked up 9.5 million days in FY 2021 of both domestic and international service. That’s a tenfold increase from 818,496 in FY 2016.
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The tempo comes with predictable consequences – Guard and Reserve forces have faced retention issues in recent years, and “ensuring these servicemembers have the same education benefits as their active-duty counterparts is a logical first step towards parity in recruitment and retention,” the letter states.
If neither bill is passed by both chambers before the end of the current session, all legislative efforts will need to start fresh in the new year.
“Given the shared focus on supporting our National Guard and Reserve servicemembers, we implore you to come to a bipartisan agreement that passes GI Bill parity before the end of the 117th Congress,” the letter concludes. “Our servicemembers have earned it.”
Ask your senators to pass GI Bill parity legislation before the end of this Congress.
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