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Senators Push for Early Retirement Credit for 12304(b) Missions

Washington Report

Nine senators are pushing congressional leaders from both sides of the political aisle to support a measure that would provide early retirement credit for National Guardsmen and Reservists mobilized under the authority 12304(b).  

Sen. Christopher A. Coons, D-Del., authored a letter to the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee urging support for the benefits. Others who signed onto the letter include Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.; Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine; Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho; Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn.; Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.; Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H.; Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D.; and Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont.

Congress created the 12304(b) authority in 2012 for certain preplanned missions in support of combatant commanders. But the original language did not include pre- and post-deployment health care, educational benefits or early retirement credit and other benefits that other mobilization authorities provide.

Obtaining benefits parity under 12304(b) orders has been a NGAUS priority. Since 2012, more than 18,000 Guardsmen have deployed under the authority, including missions in support of the NATO mission in Kosovo; the Multinational Force Observers mission in the Sinai, Egypt; and efforts to counter Russian aggression in Eastern Europe.

Congress has addressed some of those discrepancies, adding pre-mobilization and transitional health care benefits as part of the fiscal year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act and education benefits as part of the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017.

Last year, Coons introduced bipartisan legislation that would have closed the final benefits gap, known as the National Guard and Reserves Benefits Parity Act.

Two of that bill’s provisions were included in the 2019 NDAA. Those provisions would allow Guardsmen and Reservists to receive a monthly high-deployment allowance for eligible service members with lengthy or numerous deployments and protects them from a reduction in pay if they are federal civilian employees.

Coons said the final provision from his bill would reduce the age at which Guardsmen and Reservists can receive retirement pay by three months for every 90 days they are mobilized under the 12304(b) authority. He urged Senate leaders to include the provision in the final version of the bill. The provision is currently included in the House version of the 2020 NDAA, but not the Senate’s.