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By CAPT Marshall A. Hanson, USNR (Ret.)
On Monday, Oct. 28, the House passed the Honor America's Guard-Reserve Retirees Act, H.R. 1405, which gives all those Reserve Force members with 20 years of service in the Reserve and National Guard the honor of being called a veteran.
Despite spending two decades serving the nation and standing ready to be deployed at a moment’s notice to anywhere in the world in defense of freedom, under current law these devoted men and women cannot legally call themselves veterans.
Presently, only those Reserve Force members who have served long enough on active duty qualify by federal statute as veterans; typically 180 days or more of active service. Proposed legislation would recognize those who qualify for paid retirement as veterans as well.
Introduced by Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., the bill has been passed by the House in the last two Congresses. A Member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, Rep. Walz is the highest ranking enlisted soldier to ever serve in Congress and co-chair of the National Guard and Reserve Components Caucus. This Reserve Force Caucus was recognized by ROA at the 2013 Gala.
“These men and women took an oath to defend our nation at any cost and have dedicated their lives in service to our country,” said Rep. Walz, “Many stood at the ready for decades in defense of our nation and the time is now to give them the honor and recognition they have earned and deserve. I am pleased this legislation has passed the House and am optimistic it will finally become law this year.”
In earlier Congresses, the road block has been in the Senate, but progress has been made this year in that chamber as well. Identical legislation, S. 629, was introduced by Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., and Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark, earlier this year. Additionally, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee has included veterans’ status language in its omnibus bill. ROA has been informed that both of the Senate bills will be voted upon by the entire Senate before the end of the year.
Another avenue open, is veteran status language that was a provision included by the House in its National Defense Authorization Bill (NDAA), H.R.1960. It has been suggested that when the Defense Authorization goes into conference, this language has a high opportunity of be left in the final bill, as the language isn’t controversial and has no budgetary cost.
ROA continues to track this issue, and may seek membership support when necessary to help legislative passage.