WASHINGTON (Jan. 6, 2021) — The voice of more than 40,000 current and former National Guard officers is applauding legislation signed by President Donald Trump yesterday that makes more Guardsmen and their families eligible for some popular veterans’ benefits.
None of the benefits, such as the Department of Veterans Affairs home loan program, are new; Guardsmen can earn them when activated by the president.
But the Johnny Isakson and David P. Roe M.D. Veterans Health Care and Benefits Improvements Act of 2020, now enables many Guardsmen to qualify for them with service in a state-status.
“This legislation recognizes that Guardsmen provide critical service to our country while still under the command of their governors, whether it’s training for combat or responding to a national emergency or disaster,” said retired Brig. Gen. J. Roy Robinson, the NGAUS president.
The association was a force behind the legislation, assisting the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs committees with its formulation.
One provision credits service under Title 32 (federally funded but under state control) toward VA home loans. The threshold for the program is 90 cumulative days with at least one period of 30 consecutive days.
Until yesterday, Guardsmen qualified for no-money-down, VA-guaranteed mortgage only if they had mobilized under Title 10, which puts Guardsmen under the control of the president, for 90 consecutive days or had six years of total service.
NGAUS believes the new law will make tens of thousands of Guardsmen eligible for VA home loans who previously were not. This includes most of those who have mobilized for state coronavirus pandemic missions. More than 20,000 Guardsmen remain on such duty nationwide.
Another provision expands eligibility for the Fry Scholarship for the children and spouses of troops who died on or after Sept. 11, 2001, as a result of their military service.
The language removes the requirement that the death occurred while on federal active duty. This means deaths that occur on weekend drills and other training apply. So, too, do those that result from a service-connected disability.
Named for Marine Gunnery Sgt. John David Fry, who was killed in Iraq in 2006, the scholarship is similar to the full benefit of the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill educational benefit. It includes full in-state tuition at public schools, money for housing, and a stipend for books and supplies.
The new law also provides a presumption of service-connection for military members who contract the coronavirus within 14 days of the completion of duty in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
And it expands counseling for military sexual trauma at VA facilities to former Guardsmen and Reservists, who previously only received such counseling if they were current members of the Guard or Reserve.
The same provision also allows the VA to treat physical health conditions arising from MST, not just mental health conditions.
Additional language also extends federal employment protections and reemployment rights to Guardsmen who serve at least 14 days of state active duty or who are mobilized to respond to a national emergency or natural disaster.
Previously, there were no federal job protections for state active duty.
The legislation honors a former chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee and the outgoing ranking member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee. Isakson, a Republican from Georgia, left the Senate in 2018 for health reasons. Roe, a Republican from Tennessee, did not seek reelection to the House last year.
Reporters, Editors & Producers: Retired Brig. Gen. J. Roy Robinson is available for interviews or to appear as a subject matter expert on issues related to the National Guard. Contact John Goheen at 202-408-5882 to schedule an interview or appearance.
About NGAUS: The association includes more than 40,000 current or former Guard officers. It was created in 1878 to provide unified National Guard representation in Washington. In their first productive meeting after Reconstruction, militia officers from the North and South formed the association with the goal of obtaining better equipment and training by educating Congress on Guard requirements. Today, 143 years later, NGAUS has the same mission.