CRAIG SEEKS TO IMPROVE EDUCATION BENEFITS FOR NATIONAL GUARD AND RESERVE
U.S. Senator Larry Craig has introduced an amendment (number 2101) to the National Defense Authorization Act which contains three key provisions to expand and enhance educational benefits for members of the National Guard and Reserve.
"I want to level the field so that Guard and Reserve members - especially those serving in combat and other active duty positions - are provided with the same types of educational benefits that other military personnel have access to," said Craig, the lead Republican on the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs.
Craig's amendment would allow Guard and Reserve personnel to participate in an accelerated payment program which provides lump-sum, up-front benefits for those attending short-term, career-focused technical courses.
"The accelerated payment option was created for active duty troops in 2001. My amendment will help provide Guard and Reserve members with that same option," Craig said.
Another portion of the amendment would allow Guard and Reserve members participating in the Reserve Educational Assistance Program (REAP) to contribute up to $600 in order to receive an additional $150 per month in educational benefits. That option is presently available to active duty personnel but not for Guard and Reserve members, even those called up to active duty.
With the buy-up, total benefits under REAP cover over 70 percent of the average cost of a four year public college or university.
Craig's amendment would also update the eligibility requirements for REAP participants.
Under present law, the maximum monthly rate for REAP payments is $860 per month. To be eligible for that rate, a Guard or Reserve member must have served at least two consecutive years on active duty. However, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates recently testified that "from this point forward, members of the Reserves will be involuntarily mobilized for a maximum of one year at any one time," making it impossible for the Guard and Reserve to meet the required criteria.
Craig's amendment would address this problem by allowing Guard and Reserve members to receive the maximum benefits if they are deployed for three cumulative years.
"We are relying on Guard and Reserve members much more heavily now, and our laws need to be brought up to date to reflect these new realities," Craig said.
The Senate is currently debating the defense bill on the floor of the Senate.