VSOs and Senate Addressing Guard and Reserve Challenges

By Lt. Col. Aniela Szymanski, USMCR, director of Guard and Reserve affairs, MOAA Government Relations

MOAA and other members of The Military Coalition met recently with the Senate Armed Services Committee professional staff to discuss legislative priorities for the National Guard and Reserve.

While nobody disputes National Guard and Reserve forces are now fully an operational component of the U.S. armed forces, bringing the myriad laws that govern the Guard and Reserve into alignment with that reality has been a piecemeal process. MOAA and other organizations within The Military Coalition have led efforts to close the gaps that exist between the benefits received by active duty servicemembers and Guard and Reserve members.

Recently, MOAA's Government Relations Director for Guard and Reserve Affairs Lt. Col. Aniela Szymanski, USMCR, joined representatives from the Commissioned Officers Association of the U.S. Public Health Service, the Fleet Reserve Association, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars to discuss these legislative priorities with the professional staff members of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Some of the issues discussed included:

  • the reduction of general/flag officers within the reserve component;
  • pilot shortages within the services;
  • duty status reform;
  • the demands Guard and Reserve obligations place on its members and ways to mitigate those consequences;
  • TRICARE Reserve Select for members who have the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program from their civilian jobs; and
  • increased employment and consumer protections for Guard and Reserve members called to active service.

As has been the case with all legislative discussions for the past few years, Congress is challenged with finding ways to pay for legislation that would have a cost associated with it. There are many areas where the Senate staff was aligned with the legislative goals of MOAA and The Military Coalition and the staff's commitment to finding ways to ensure the Guard and Reserve receive the earned benefits they deserve and are prepared operationally for the missions they are called upon to perform. Their willingness to have frank and open discussions with MOAA and other organizations is an excellent way for them to hear about the needs and challenges of the Guard and Reserve members MOAA serves.

The committee staff also had excellent suggestions for ways MOAA and other organizations can further assist in addressing the demands placed on the services and Congress. For example, it was suggested military service organizations meet with organizations representing airline pilots to further understand the demands on the industry and profession and the associated impact on military service.

MOAA intends to pursue these and other industry partner discussions to formulate workable solutions going forward. The committee staff also asked for military service organizations to remain engaged in DoD's duty status reform efforts to ensure appropriate progress and results. MOAA has stayed informed and engaged on this and other DoD initiatives to provide insights and perspectives that might otherwise not be considered.

If you have Guard and Reserve matters you believe MOAA should address with Congress, email them to legis@moaa.org.