U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Moline), a member of the powerful House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, voted Wednesday to pass the bipartisan Guard and Reserve GI Bill Parity Act of 2021.
The bill would make GI Bill benefits consistent between members of the National Guard and Reserve, who increasingly conduct similar training and missions as other servicemembers, but do not receive equal benefits.
“Members of the National Guard and Reserves take the same oath to protect and defend our nation as our active-duty components, and they deserve the same benefits for their service in uniform,” Bustos said in a release. “Today, I was proud to vote for the Guard and Reserve GI Bill Parity Act to help ensure that each and every one of our servicemembers can enjoy the benefits of the GI Bill. This is an important step toward keeping the promises made to those who’ve stepped up to protect and defend our country.”
Since 9/11, the Reserve component has become an integral part of U.S. defense plans as an operational reserve, a change from its traditional role as a strategic reserve. Servicemembers from the Active and Reserve components often train and serve alongside each other, such as deployments to disasters like wildfires, but do not receive equal benefits.
The new law (which must still pass the full House and Senate) would start to address this benefits disparity by expanding eligibility for the Post-9/11 GI Bill to count every day that a servicemember is paid and in uniform toward benefit eligibility.
This bill expands eligibility for Post-9/11 GI Bill educational assistance. Specifically, the bill adjusts the type of service that entitles a member of the Armed Forces, Reserves, or National Guard to such assistance. Under the bill, service by a reservist or National Guard member that is entitled to pay counts toward benefit eligibility. Such service includes training, active military service, inactive training, and general duty for which basic pay is warranted.
A longtime advocate for National Guard and Reserve members, Bustos also successfully led bipartisan efforts in the 117th Congress to:
- Secure a commitment from the U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff that the Illinois Air National Guard’s 182d Airlift Wing in Peoria will keep its aircraft and flying mission even if reductions are made elsewhere.
- Restore federal funding for the Guard’s COVID-19 response efforts.
- Secure funding to reimburse National Guard members for their January 6th response efforts.