Veterans Status Legislation Hits Snag

Washington Report

(July 12, 2016) Veterans status is one of two important pieces of legislation that have hit a snag in Congress.

Current law requires Guardsmen and Reservists to serve at least 179 days on federal active duty for other than training to be considered a veteran, regardless of how many years they have in uniform.

Both the House and Senate late last year passed language that would grant veterans status to all National Guard and Reserve retirees.

However, the language is different in the two versions, which requires the House and Senate to reconcile the difference in a "conference committee" and repass before it can be sent to the president.

The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee has included its language in the Vets First Act, S. 2921, a comprehensive package of veterans legislation that the full Senate could vote on as early as this week.

But the House Veterans Affairs Committee has yet to agree to a conference committee on veteran's status or to add the language to another bill, which would trigger a conference.

The HVAC leadership disagrees with provisions in the Senate omnibus legislation and, as a result, may not push for a final vote on any veterans legislation this year in order to stymie the Senate. Such inaction would force both the House and Senate to start over next year.

Ironically, the House has passed veterans status several years in a row only to have it fail due to Senate inaction.

Also at risk is legislation to provide Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to Guardsmen and Reservists mobilized under 12304b, a statute that enables the services to call reserve-component units to preplanned and budgeted overseas operations.

Created by the fiscal 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, it does not provide all the benefits offered by other mobilization statues.

More than 2,000 Army Guardsmen will or have mobilized under 12304b this fiscal year. Nearly 2,500 are scheduled for mission under 12304b next fiscal year.

NGAUS is putting pressure on HVAC members to find a way to approve both pieces of legislation.