Issue Position: Defense
Military Reserve and National Guard
Today 50 percent of the troops in Iraq are members of the Reserve and National Guard units, with many having served three tours of duty. Although these soldiers have been asked to perform similar duties as all those "in theater", their benefits continue to lag behind their active duty counterparts. That is why I am proud to have joined with fellow House Democrats in introducing the GI Bill of Rights for the 21st Century (HR2131), to honor the bravery of our troops and the tremendous sacrifices that their families have made. This legislative package was created to provide equity for all our servicemen and women with better protections and improved benefits. It will also guarantee homecoming veterans improved access to education, health care and the opportunity for good jobs as well as repealing unfair tax burdens on military families.
Specifically, this legislation will:
Require fair treatment of active and reserve forces equally as to the lengths of their deployments
Ensure that Guard and reserve units serving overseas get the pay they deserve, accurately and on time
Open access to the TRICARE health system for all guard and reserve personnel
Provide funds to service members' families to help secure access to child care and development programs
Lower the reservist retirement age from 60 to 55
Establish a Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness (Reserve Affairs) under the Secretary of Defense to be responsible for the overall supervision of reserve component affairs of the Department of Defense
Provide potential recruits with a detailed explanation of their commitment to the military, including how "Stop Loss" orders and call-ups of the Individual Ready Reserve or other potential special circumstances or declarations could affect their military contract.
FY 2006 Defense Funding
The Department of Defense Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2006 (PL 109-148), which I supported, provided $453.2 billion for the military and defense. The bill provides a 3.1 percent pay increase for military personnel, provides $50 billion in emergency supplemental funding to cover operations in Iraq and Afghanistan for the first half of the year, $29 billion for Gulf Coast hurricane relief, and $3.8 billion for flu preparedness. In addition, the bill includes programs important to Connecticut, such as the F/A-22 Raptor, Joint Strike Fighter, submarines and Black Hawk Helicopters.
In addition, I have co-sponsored and supported the following legislation during the109th session of Congress which collectively provides additional benefits to individual soldiers and their families:
The Military Death Benefit Improvement Act of 2005 (H.R. 292)- Increases from $12,000 to $100,000 the death gratuity payable to the survivors of members of the Armed Forces who die in combat while on active duty or as a result of combat related injuries.
HOPE at HOME Act (H.R. 383)- Entitles a Federal employee who is a member of a reserve component and is absent from Federal employment under a call or order to active duty for a period of more than 30 days to the difference between the amount of the civilian base pay that would otherwise have been payable to such employee for such period and the amount of military compensation received for the active-duty service.
Military Health Services Improvement Act of 2005 (H.R. 1639)- Which requires members of the Armed Forces to receive mental health evaluations before and after combat deployment.
Amendments to Title 10 United States Code (H.R. 1666)- Provides for a temporary five-year increase in the minimum end-strength levels for active-duty personnel for the Armed Forces and increases the number of Special Operations Forces.