Issue Position: National Guard & Reserves
Senator Maria Cantwell is fighting to minimize the strain placed on members of the Guard and Reserves and their families. When these brave men and women put their lives on the line for us, we have a responsibility to help them in their missions and at home as much as we can. Maria wants to make sure our citizen soldiers have the support and equipment they need to do their jobs as well as fair deployment times, quality health care, and continuing education opportunities.
Extending the GI Bill for Life
When Guard members and Reservists return home, they need increased access to education and additional training opportunities through the Montgomery GI Bill. While almost all soldiers contribute to the GI Bill program during their military service, only about half take advantage of the education benefits before they expire ten years later. Maria introduced the "GI Bill for Life" so that the men and women who serve our country will always have the door to higher education open to them. Veterans should not face an arbitrary time limit that keeps them from attending school. After leaving the military, some servicemembers postpone going to school in order to support their families. The GI Bill for Life would ensure that service members and veterans can seek education and job training opportunities when it is the right time for them.
Protecting and Equipping Our National Guard and Reserves
We have a responsibility to give all service members the very best resources to fulfill their missions as safely and effectively as possibly. That's why Maria worked to get her National Guard Equipment Accountability Act passed unanimously by the Senate. This bill requires the military to track and replace all National Guard equipment diverted to other units while in the combat theater. One of Washington state's National Guard units has already been forced to leave behind more than $30 million in equipment in Iraq. Maria knows that the men and women of our National Guard and Reserves need the equipment and support they need to respond quickly and effectively to emergencies both at home and abroad.
Fighting For Concurrent Receipt
Maria believes in full concurrent receipt. Disabled veterans should be able to receive both their retirement pay and their disability pay without one payment reducing the other. She has repeatedly cosponsored the Retired Pay Restoration Act of 2001 and other bills to deliver improved concurrent receipt. While the final defense bills for the last three years have included some improvements for some veterans affected by the problem, not everyone has been helped. Maria continues to work for full concurrent receipt.
Making Sure Reservists Get Quality Health Care
Maria has worked hard to expand access to TRICARE to reservists and their families at all times, not just during periods of activation. As an original cosponsor of the Guard and Reserve Readiness Retention Act, Maria supports a program allowing reservists and their families to buy into the TRICARE system when off active duty. The bill would help families with other private coverage handle premiums during periods off active duty as well. In 2004, Maria helped get passed into law some expanded access to TRICARE after active duty - based on the length of activation.
Preventing Extended Deployments
When the administration considered longer and more frequent call-ups for the National Guard and Reserves, Maria opposed the plan and won. She knows it isn't right to burden members of the Guard and Reserve, their families and their employers with extended deployments, particularly when they are unexpected. Maria fought the change with the National Guard Association, the Reserve Officers Association, and the National Military Families Association, and the administration reversed its proposal.
Supporting Military Families
Many members of the Guard and Reserves are forced to take a pay cut when called up for duty, because their businesses cannot afford to pay both them and their temporary replacement. Far too often, this leaves military families without health care and under great economic strain. Maria believes that we should help employers pay National Guard and Reserve employees after they are called up for military duty. Maria has worked to get employers a tax credit when they continue to pay employees after they are called up for military duty.