House Committee to Consider Veteran Status

NGAUS Washington Report

(April 23, 2013) Members of the House Veterans Affairs Committee will vote Thursday on whether retired National Guard and Reserve members officially can call themselves veterans.

A unanimous vote of approval is expected from the committee’s subcommittee on disability assistance and memorial affairs, but the committee has approved legislation of this type in the past only to see it die in the full Congress.

At issue is the formal definition of veteran, which requires a service member to have spent time on federal active duty. Some Guardsmen and Reservists can spend 20 years in uniform without being called to federal active service. They are not veterans according to the government’s definition.

NGAUS has pushed hard for this legislation and supports the current effort which is being headed by Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., a retired Guard command sergeant major. He is the sponsor of The Honor America’s Guard-Reserve Retirees Act of 2013, which is H.R. 679.

The law does not have the support of the Department of Veterans Affairs, which fears the Guard and Reserve retirees affected would believe they were eligible for benefits for which they are not entitled. In a statement, the VA said it “does not support this bill because it represents a departure from active service as a foundation for veterans’ status.”