Introduction of A Bill to Make Improvements to The Reserve G.I. Bill -- (Extensions of Remarks - April 21, 2004)
HON. FRANK A. LoBIONDO
OF NEW JERSEY
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 21, 2004
Mr. LoBIONDO. Mr. Speaker, as the largest mobilization of National Guard and Reserve troops since World War II continues, the high operations tempo is undoubtedly taking a toll on members and their families. Through March of 2004, 363,000 reservists have been mobilized in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. This new operations tempo reality for the Reserve components has altered perceptions of what it means to serve as a Reservist or National Guardsman, while raising serious questions about how Reserve members are compensated in terms of benefits. If the nation is to rely on the Reserves to assume a similar role to our active duty troops in military operations, then it is essential that Reserve compensation and benefits adequately reflect that new role.
Congress has become increasingly sensitive to the needs of these servicemembers and their families and I am heartened that we have improved Reserve component benefits in several areas. Unfortunately, education benefit shortfalls for reservists have not drawn the attention they should, as one benefit that has been left behind is the Reserve Montgomery GI Bill.
When the modern Montgomery GI Bill was established in 1985, Guard and Reserve GI Bill benefits were set at 47 percent of active duty benefits. For every $100 that an active duty servicemember or veteran received in GI Bill benefits, a Reservist would get $47. This ratio continued until the late 1990s, when Congress improved the active duty Montgomery GI Bill through large increases. Our active duty servicemembers have more than earned this improved educational benefit, but no similar major increases have been made for the Reserve program.
As a result, Reserve MGIB benefits have slipped to 29 percent of active duty GI Bill benefits. This is simply unacceptable and with over 350,000 Guard and Reserve members having been mobilized in the last 2 years, and many thousands more scheduled for deployment to Afghanistan and Iraq, it is well past time to fix this problem. We must not leave our citizen-soldiers behind as they go into harm's way to fight the Global War on Terrorism. Helping them transition back to civilian life by improving their educational benefits will be one important way we can help.
Today, I am introducing legislation, along with Mr. MCINTYRE of North Carolina, which will increase the Reserve GI Bill to 50 percent of the Montgomery GI Bill over a 5-year period and then keep it linked to the Montgomery GI Bill at the 50 percent rate. This bill, the LoBiondo-McIntyre Reserve GI Bill Improvements Act of 2004, would also authorize Reservists who serve on active duty for 24 months during a 5-year period to qualify for benefits under the Montgomery GI Bill program, which is now open to only active duty personnel. This is a fiscally responsible way to make an achievable increase in educational benefits for the Reserve component.
The 253rd Transportation Company out of Cape May Court House, New Jersey, in my district has just returned from over a year in Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. We are very proud of the 253rd and the great contributions they have made to the Global War on Terrorism. I dedicate this legislation to all the National Guardsmen and Reservists from the Second District of New Jersey and to the thousands of other Reserve component soldiers, sailors, airman, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen who secure our freedom through their dedicated service to our nation.
I strongly urge my colleagues to support this legislation.