Wes Hickman/Kevin Bishop
WASHINGTON -- U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, this week introduced legislation to benefit members of the National Guard and Reserves.
Senator Graham’s National Guard and Reserves Reform Act for the 21st Century is a comprehensive reform bill to modernize benefits for members of the National Guard and Reserves. It addresses healthcare, retirement, and pay disparity between active duty and civilian income.
“This reform package provides better health coverage, a fair retirement system, and the opportunity for improved compensation,” said Graham. “It will ensure that Guard and Reserve personnel and their families are justly compensated for their service.”
“The increased demands placed on the men and women who serve this country in a part-time capacity require a modernization of their benefits,” said Graham. “We must be sure to take care of every person that puts their life on the line to fight for liberty and freedom throughout the world.”
The health insurance reform provisions allow Guard and Reserve members the option of enrolling fulltime in TRICARE, the family health insurance coverage offered to active-duty military personnel.
The change would offer health care stability to families who lose coverage under employers’ plans when a family member is called to active duty. It also provides relief to self-employed personnel who often pay large sums for health care coverage or have none at all. Members of the Guard and Reserve will have a co-payment because of their part-time status. Currently, Guard and Reservists are only eligible for TRICARE coverage when they are called to active duty.
This legislation also adjusts the retirement structure of the Guard and Reserves to more accurately reflect the needs of the troops. For every two years a member serves after twenty years of honorable service, that individual’s eligible retirement age will be reduced by one year.
Under current law, the retirement age is 60. Under the Graham plan, if an individual serves for 22 years, they are eligible for retirement at 59. An individual entering military service at 18 and serving for 36 years could retire at 52.
The reform package also provides tax breaks for employers that make up the difference in civilian pay and reserve pay while members are on active duty. Employers can receive up to $25,000 per person in tax breaks for relieving this disparity.
“The National Guard and Reserves have been called upon more often to help protect this country and defend American interests,” said Graham. “They are playing a vital role in Operation Iraqi Freedom and are an integral part of the war on terrorism.”