Law Proposed to Close GI Bill Gap for Wounded Guard and Reserve Members

Posted on Jun 24, 2015

Under current federal law when National Guard or Military Reserve members are ordered to receive authorized medical care for treatment and rehabilitation that time is not credited for Post-9/11 GI Bill education assistance, meaning that unlike other members of the military, these members of the Guard and Reserve actually lose benefits for being injured in the line of duty. (Under U.S. Code 12301(h) ”when authorized by the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of a military department may, with the consent of the member, order a member of a reserve component to active duty to receive authorized medical care; to be medically evaluated for disability or other purposes; or to complete a required Department of Defense health care study.”)

Three US lawmakers aim to correct this problem. Senator John Boozman, R-Ark., Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore and Representative Mark Takano, D-Ca., have introduced the GI Bill Fairness Act, legislation that would ensure wounded Guardsmen and Reservists receive the GI Bill benefits they’ve earned.

“By disqualifying wounded Guardsmen and Reservist from benefits they should be earning, this quirk in law is literally adding insult to injury” Wyden said.  “That’s not anything I want to support, and our commonsense, bipartisan legislation will fix this problem by making sure these brave Americans get the benefits they’ve earned.”  “It is truly unjust to deny wounded and injured service members the ability to accrue educational benefits for the time they spend receiving medical care.  Today, I am proud to join Sen. Wyden and Rep. Takano in sponsoring legislation that fixes this oversight in the law,” Boozman said. “Many Guardsmen and Reservists serve in nearly the same capacity as active duty service members, and we should treat them equally if they are injured while putting their life on the line for our country,” Rep. Takano said. “This legislation would ensure those members get the Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits they deserve. No veteran should lose their benefits simply because they were in the National Guard or Reserves. I’m proud to introduce this legislation in the House, and I hope that Democrats and Republicans can come together to treat these heroes with the respect they deserve.”

The pending legislation would be retroactive. All duty performed under 12301(h) sinceSeptember 11, 2001, would be considered qualifying active duty.

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Sean D. Cuddigan
SSA and VA Disability Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska