Snyder, Lincoln push benefits for Guard, Reservists | Arkansas Blog

Friday, September 29, 2006

Snyder, Lincoln push benefits for Guard, Reservists

Posted By on Fri, Sep 29, 2006 at 4:50 PM

U.S. Rep. Vic Snyder gets attention from a prominent military affairs columnist for urging defense officials during a contentious congressional hearing to increase benefits for National Guard and Reserve soldiers under the Montgomery G.I. Bill (MGIB). U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln also is cited for her role in sponsoring an amendment to enhance MGIB benefits for reservists that the Bush administration is opposing.

When active duty members leave service, they take along MGIB benefits. Reserve benefits can only be used while they remain in drill status.

“How is it fair when two members serve side by side in combat, they return home together, both leave the service, but one will have education benefits [and] the other will not have any?" asked Snyder. “This seems to me to be unconscionable.” ...

It’s also true, Snyder said, that the Bush administration has not asked for money to adjust Reserve MGIB. On Oct. 1, when active duty benefits go up once again, Reserve MGIB benefits will stay frozen and their value, relative to active duty MGIB, will fall to 27 percent.

“Shouldn’t we at least bring that benefit up to where it was at the time the program was [established],” Snyder asked Michael L. Dominguez, principal deputy under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness. ...

“If we look at our recruiting and retention numbers, we’re achieving the purposes for which the program was intended,” said Dominguez, a 1975 West Point graduate. For five years, until last July, he served as assistant secretary of the Air Force for manpower and reserve affairs.

Following that logic, an angry Snyder told Dominguez, if the Reserve MGIB “deteriorates to three percent of the [active duty] benefit…or one percent, you’re going to be perfectly satisfied as long as Americans are stepping forward and signing enlistment contracts for reasons for patriotism, family heritage, for love of country. You don’t care where that benefit deteriorates to…I think you stepped in it, Mr. Secretary.” ...

The Senate, in its version of the 2007 defense authorization bill, adopted an amendment from Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) that would give Reserve MGIB benefits the same portability as active duty MGIB, a 10-year window to use benefits after separation. The House bill was silent on the issue. Odds were seen as slim the Lincoln provision would survive a House-Senate conference committee ironing out differences between the two bills.

The Bush administration, in opposing the Lincoln provision, also pointed to projected costs of $1.5 billion over 10 years and urged a delay on any changes to benefits until a joint VA-Department of Defense task force completes a comprehensive review of MGIB issues.


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