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.
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.
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.