Today, a bill introduced by Representative Tim Walz (D-MN) to give military retirees the honor they deserve passed through the Veterans Affairs Committee. The Honor America's Guard-Reserve Retirees Act, grants full veteran status to members of the guard and reserve components who have served at least 20 years, but have not been called up for active duty. As of now, these brave men and women cannot legally call themselves veterans.
"These men and women took an oath to defend our nation at any cost and have dedicated their lives in service to our country," Walz said. "Many stood at the ready for decades in defense of our nation. This bill will give them the honor and recognition they have earned and deserve. I'm pleased the bill was approved by the Veterans Affairs committee, one of the first steps in the process of becoming law. I'm optimistic this legislation will finally become law this year."
The House passed Walz's legislation last Congress only to see it blocked in the Senate due to unwarranted concerns about cost. The CBO scored the bill as "cost neutral" and military retirees who would fall under the bill's jurisdiction would receive no extra benefits besides being legally recognized as veterans for their two or more decades of service to our country.
The bill enjoys bipartisan support in Congress and also from veterans' organizations, including The Reserve Officers Association and The Military Coalition, a group of 34 military, veterans, and uniformed services organizations with over 5.5 million members nationwide.
"Veteran Reserve and Guard members, while pleased over today's vote, won't celebrate until the mission is complete. We've seen this legislation stall in the Senate congress after congress. The committee by this vote honors the Reserve and Guard members who were ready to answer the call, and also sends a strong endorsement to both the House and the Senate of what needs to be done. We've got to turn today's vote into momentum that can win this fight and finally get these service members the recognition they deserve," said Major General Andrew Davis, USMC (ret.), Executive Director of the Reserve Officers Association.
"Over the last decade, thousands of brave men and women from the enlisted ranks have proudly earned their veteran status through active deployments. The passage of this bill is recognition of those who stand in front of and behind our acknowledged veterans, training them, preparing them, supplying them and supporting them -- individuals who, themselves, are ready to deploy but based on their assigned duties may not have had the opportunity to serve in that way. Many enlisted Reserve and Guard members are surprised to learn that, after serving honorably for 20 years, they are not considered as veterans of the armed forces, under current statutory definition," said Chief Master Sergeant Lani Burnett, USAF (ret.) Reserve Enlisted Association, Executive Director. "The Reserve Enlisted Association salutes the House Veteran Affairs committee on the passage of the Honor America's Guard-Reserve Retirees Act."
Walz, the highest ranking enlisted soldier to ever serve in Congress and co-chair of the National Guard and Reserve Components Caucus, reintroduced the bill on February 13 of this year. Members who have signed on as co-sponsors include: Rep. Jon Runyan (R-NJ), Duncan Hunter (R-CA), Jim Matheson (D-UT), Tom Latham (R-IA), and Nick Rahall (D-WV).