Kerry, Republican and Democratic Senators Work to Increase Guard and Reserve Benefits
John Kerry (D-Mass.) joined nine colleagues to introduce the Reserve Educational Assistance Program (REAP) Enhancement Act of 2008 today, which would provide the men and women of our National Guard and Reserves with benefits that better reflect their increased service to our country. The reform would make three much-needed improvements to the structure and value of the Montgomery G.I. Bill education benefits for our citizen soldiers: by providing accruable benefits for those who have served multiple deployments; by replacing the current three-tiered formula for REAP benefits with one that more accurately reflects service rendered; and by shifting jurisdiction of REAP benefits from the Department of Defense to the Veterans Administration. A bipartisan group of U.S. Senators introduced the bill, including Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Gordon Smith (R-Ore.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Ken Salazar (D-Colo.), and Evan Bayh (D-Ind.).
"Only in Washington would some people fail to understand that soldiers who serve longer should receive more benefits. It's an insult to those who have worn our country's uniform to tell them that only a fraction of the days they put their lives on the line are counted towards their benefits. This reform recognizes every day each soldier spends serving their country in a war-zone and honors their sacrifices. Giving soldiers the educational benefits they deserve is one small way we can repay our Guard and Reservists," said Kerry.
"Last year, Congress made important progress by improving access to educational benefits for our citizen soldiers, but too many inequities still remain in the current G.I. Bill," Lincoln said. "Approximately 3,000 members of Arkansas's 39th Infantry Brigade Combat Team deployed to Iraq last month. The majority of the brigade has returned for a second tour, but these members will not receive one additional penny of educational benefits because benefits are based on the single-longest deployment for each soldier and are not accruable. With increasing frequency, our country is calling on our citizen soldiers to place themselves in harm's way on our behalf. It's time that a grateful nation takes needed steps to more appropriately honor their sacrifice."
The REAP Enhancement Act builds on the progress of Lincoln's Total Force Educational Assistance Enhancement and Integration Act of 2007 (S.644). A significant provision of the Total Force billallowing citizen soldiers who have served combat tours to access their educational benefits for up to ten years following their service, just as active duty soldiers have been able to dowas signed into law as part of the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act.
The REAP Enhancement Act is endorsed by the Military Officers Association of America and the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States.