Press Releases

Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA) introduced the “Enhancing America’s Guard and Reserve” (EAGR) Act, H.R. 4468. This bill is a comprehensive package of benefits aimed at increasing the quality-of-life of members of America’s National Guard and Reserve and their families. The bill would provide universal access to military health care (TRICARE) for all drilling reservists, enhanced education benefits through the Montgomery G.I. Bill, retirement age reductions, tax breaks for employers who hire reservists, and other beneficial provisions. These enhanced benefits will go a long way toward improving retention and recruitment, as well as the morale and readiness of our Guard and Reserve members.

“The members of our National Guard and Reserve and their families make sacrifices every day so that all Americans can enjoy the freedom and peace that we have,” said Smith. “With over 40 percent of U.S. personnel in Afghanistan and Iraq serving as National Guard and Reserve members, the role of reservists has changed, and they now play a central role in our military operations. They are doing an outstanding job at home and overseas, however, the stress and strain on our Guard and reservists and their families is evident. The least we can do to ensure that our Guard and Reserve members have the very best support and benefits available in return for their enormous sacrifice.”

Below is a summary of the bill’s main provisions:

TRICARE for Guard and Reserve

The proposal extends access to military health care (TRICARE) to all Guard and Reserve members in drilling status.  Currently, Guard and Reserves members can access TRICARE benefits for only for a limited time after they’ve been on a major deployment.

Montgomery G.I. Bill Enhancements

The bill would nearly double the current amount of educational assistance for Guard and Reservists under the Montgomery G.I. Bill for Selected Reserve (MGIB-SR) program.  For example, reservists eligible for MGIB-SR and attending school full-time would see their benefits jump from the current $295 per month to $517 per month.

The bill would also provided even greater increases in MGIB benefits to Guard and Reservists who are called to active duty for deployments of 90 days, 1 year, or 2 years.

Finally, the bill ties each of these enhanced benefits to an existing index so that benefits would keep up with the rising cost of education.

Retirement Age

The EAGR Act would reduce the retirement age one year for every year of service past twenty years. 

Tax Breaks for Companies with Guard-Reserve Employees

The EAGR Act would extend a tax credit on benefits that employers who make up any disparity their employees suffer as a result of activation.  The bill also reimburses state and local governments who also provide a similar benefit to their Guard and Reservist employees.

Federal Employees

The EAGR Act would entitle a Federal employee who is a member of the Guard or Reserve to receive the difference in pay between military compensation and civilian compensation during periods of active duty exceeding 30 days.

Space Available Flights

Also included in the legislation is a provision to expand availability of space available flights for members of the Guard and Reserve.

Authority to Compensate for Telecommuting Performed in Inactive Status

Current law does not allow for members of the Guard and Reserve to be credited for work they do from home. My bill would authorize compensation for a Guard or Reserve member performing duty authorized by the appropriate military authority whether under direct military control of performing assigned duties from home on a computer. The bill would only allow telecommuting credit to account for no more than 2 days (16 hours) of their 8-day requirement per quarter.

 

Congressman Adam Smith (D-Tacoma) made the following statement today following his return from a recent trip to Iraq where he visited with troops, military leaders and Iraqi government officials:

“Our troops deserve the highest praise for their hard work and dedication to their mission in Iraq. Over and over again, I encountered our servicemen and women and witnessed their dedication to their mission and to the Iraqi people. Despite the difficulties they face, they are working nobly and earnestly to help make Iraq a better and safer place. I join with all Americans in saluting our troops in Iraq.

Progress is being made in Iraq. However, the Bush Administration’s failure of leadership has made the tasks of our servicemen and women more difficult than it had to be. Disbanding the Iraqi army, failing to adequately plan for winning the peace and our arrogant, unilateral approach to the reconstruction of Iraq were just a few of several large mistakes.

Elections for a new democratically-elected Iraqi government will occur on December 15th. After those elections, we must move quickly to turn over more responsibility to that government. While I think it’s problematic to immediately withdraw our troops, I recognize that our presence in Iraq is also a unifying force that brings together ex-Saddam loyalists, disgruntled Sunnis, and foreign terrorists.  Our troops have become the rallying point of the insurgency that they have been asked to contain.  Reducing our troop levels and making it clear we will not have permanent military bases in Iraq will undercut the insurgents’ support by showing Iraqis that we are not there as occupiers. By reducing our troops in an orderly way after this election, it will give the government more legitimacy by showing that they are truly responsible for stabilizing their country. 

The strain on our troops is evident and our military is stretched too thin. We need to accelerate and enhance the training of Iraqi troops in order to make Iraqis responsible for their own security.  As Iraqis stand up more competent security forces, we can drawdown our forces more quickly so that Iraqis have a clear signal that we are leaving, and so the Iraqi government becomes less dependent on U.S. protection.

Regardless of why we went to war or what mistakes have been made thus far in Iraq, we must focus now on getting it right, as failure could mean a greater threat down the road.  But we must also be realistic about our goals and move swiftly to achieve them so that we can bring our troops home as soon as possible.”

Today, U.S. Representative Adam Smith (D-Tacoma) voted for the Conference Report on the FY 2006, Military Quality of Life and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act. This bill rectifies the shortfall in veterans’ health care and also included Smith’s request for a $1.42 million earmark for construction of the Homeland Security Multi-Functional Education Center at Camp Murray, near Tacoma, Washington.

“Included in today’s bill was an additional $1.2 billion to remedy the shortfall in veterans’ health care for this year,” said Smith. “This funding is a result of Democrats working with veterans’ organizations throughout the year to put the pressure on the Republican leadership to make sure that veterans get the benefits they deserve.

Smith also notes that, “more than 50,000 veterans are waiting in line for at least six months for veterans’ health care, and the number of new enrollees waiting for their first appointment has increased by over 500 percent in the last year.  That problem will only get worse with the growing numbers of returning soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan.  It is long past time for veterans to get the health care funding that they deserve.”

Also included in the bill was a $1.42 million earmark for construction of the Homeland Security Multi-Functional Education Center at Camp Murray.

This funding would go toward the construction of a 6,190 square foot, single story multi-functional Homeland Security educational center.

“The lack of proper facilities has a negative impact and individual readiness of our Guardsmen and women,” said Smith. “This directly improves the readiness of Army National Guard units as well as first responders in the supported area.”

Training is currently being conducted in a WWII-era wooden building modified to administrative and educational spaces, without adequate sanitary facilities, HVAC, fire protection, or functional work space. The new facility will support the 205th Training Regiment of the Washington Army National Guard, which has the mission of training Guard units in the Pacific Northwest.

Congressman Adam Smith (D-Tacoma) made the following statement concerning the Budget Reconciliation:

“Today, the Republican majority, once again, forced critically important legislation through the House with no bi-partisan support and by a vote of 217-215.  In order to offset anticipated tax cuts of over $100 billion, the House Reconciliation bill cuts an estimated $50 billion over five years from vital services like Medicaid, food stamps, and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) programs which directly help disadvantaged Americans. While I strongly believe in fiscal discipline, we should not balance the budget on the backs of those Americans that need help the most, while giving the most affluent in our country additional tax breaks.  This simply is not consistent with the priorities and values of the American people. 

 It is truly disturbing that the Republican leadership thinks it is a good idea to increase the federal debt and slash funds to important programs and initiatives crucial to the most vulnerable in our society.  Astonishingly, when combined with the proposed new tax cuts, the Republican budget policies could increase the deficit by $100 billion.  The majority’s claims that this measure will help balance the budget are hypocritical at best.  This is reckless spending from a party that once claimed to believe in fiscal responsibility, and it comes at a time when the national debt exceeds $8 trillion and the annual cost of interest on the debt has increased to over $300 billion a year.

I will continue to work with my colleagues, from both sides of the aisle, to craft legislation that seeks to balance our budget, while also maintaining access to health care and education for all Americans.  Together, America can do better than a deficit reduction bill that fails to live up to the values of America’s working families.”

Congressman Adam Smith (D-Tacoma) made the following statement concerning the resolution to immediately withdraw all troops from Iraq:

“Yesterday, Congressman John Murtha spoke out on our nation’s policy on Iraq.  When it comes to defense policy, John Murtha is one of the most respected Members of Congress.  He is a decorated Marine who served for 37 years and did three tours in Vietnam.  Few in Congress have done more than John Murtha to improve our nation’s security, provide protection and equipment for our troops and make our military the strongest in the world.  I have the greatest respect for his expertise and his commitment to our troops.

The resolution that was before the House today was not John Murtha’s proposal.  The Republican proposal we had to vote on was grossly irresponsible, as it called for the immediate withdrawal of all U.S. military forces from Iraq. Any withdrawal must be done in a thoughtful and deliberate manner which is not reflected in the resolution before the House. We need to develop a real and effective strategy for handing over to the Iraqis responsibility for running their nation. This resolution was a blatant political ploy that does a disservice not only to the House but to our troops serving in Iraq. 

In one week, I am making my second trip to Iraq.  While there, I will meet with soldiers and military leaders on the ground.  It is important for me to gain this firsthand information in order to determine the best way forward.

Congress needs to have a serious debate on Iraq policy, including hearings and floor debates. Tonight’s resolution was a political stunt that did not contribute to the sorely needed dialogue on such an important issue.”