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Palazzo Joins Bipartisan Bill to Provide GI Bill Benefit Parity for National Guard and Reserve Servicemembers

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Washington, March 11, 2021 | comments

Washington, D.C. – Today, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Vice Chair Mike Levin (D-CA) and Chair Mark Takano (D-CA) reintroduced the bipartisan Guard and Reserve GI Bill Parity Act of 2021 with Reps. Steven Palazzo (R-MS) and Nancy Mace (R-SC). The bill provides parity in GI Bill benefits for members of the National Guard and Reserve who increasingly conduct similar training and missions as other servicemembers, but do not receive equal benefits.

Since 9/11, the Reserve Component has become an integral part of U.S. defense plans as an operational reserve, a change from its traditional role as a strategic reserve. Servicemembers from the Active and Reserve Components often train and serve alongside each other, such as deployments to disasters like wildfires, but do not receive equal benefits. The Guard and Reserve GI Bill Parity Act would start to address this benefits disparity by expanding eligibility for the Post-9/11 GI Bill to count every day that a servicemember is paid and in uniform toward benefit eligibility.

The reintroduction comes after the Department of Defense (DoD) announced Tuesday that 2,300 National Guard troops will remain deployed in Washington, D.C., at least until May 23, 2021. The Guard members, along with more than 20,000 others who were deployed in the nation’s capital earlier this year, are relying on a decades old 9/11 declaration to qualify for GI Bill benefits.

“Individuals serving in the National Guard and Reserve are asked to perform a range of responsibilities similar to their active-duty counterparts, and they deserve to be fairly compensated for their work,” said Congressman Steven Palazzo, Co-Chair of the House National Guard and Reserve Caucus. “Our legislation addresses the GI benefits disparity and ensures members of the Guard and Reserve receive the benefits they rightly earned.”

“The men and women who serve in the Guard and Reserve make incredible sacrifices for our country just like other servicemembers, and they deserve equal benefits for doing similar jobs and facing similar risks,” said Rep. Levin, Vice Chair of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. “This bill will bring some basic fairness to the way GI Bill benefits are earned and provide Guard and Reserve members with the benefits they deserve. I look forward to advancing this bill on behalf of the thousands of Guard members who defended our Capitol and many others who have sacrificed for our country.”

"Time and time again, through natural disasters, global pandemics, and threats to our democracy, our National Guard and Reserve members have answered the call to serve,” said Chair Takano. “But despite taking on the same risks and doing the same jobs as their Active Duty counterparts, these servicemembers don’t have access to the same benefits. That’s not right. I’m proud to support Rep. Mike Levin’s bipartisan fix to right this wrong and finally get GI Bill parity for our servicemembers."

“If members of the Guard and Reserve perform the same duties as their active duty counterparts, they deserve the same benefits,” said Lt. Gen. Dana Atkins, USAF (Ret), MOAA president and CEO. “The expanded eligibility under the  Guard and Reserve GI Bill Parity Act takes a major step forward by recognizing the reserve component’s sacrifice to our nation and rewarding their service with education benefits like their active-duty counterparts.”

"We appreciate the efforts of Representative Levin to ensure that members of the National Guard and Reserve are eligible for the GI Bill benefits they deserve based on their increased service to our nation," said Command Sergeant Major (Retired) Karen Craig, President of the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States. "The National Guard activated over 187,000 servicemembers last year, and this legislation will ensure they receive GI Bill benefits equal to their active-duty counterparts, regardless of status."

In the 116th Congress, Rep. Levin introduced the Vet Center Eligibility Expansion Act to expand eligibility to receive counseling from Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Vet Centers to members of the National Guard, Reserves, or Coast Guard who served during emergency situations, such as a major disaster, civil disorder, or drug interdiction operation. That bipartisan bill was signed into law last year. 

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