WILMINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.) sent a letter to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, urging them to support early retirement benefits for members of the National Guard and Reserve forces who deploy on certain preplanned missions overseas under what’s known as “12304b” authority. Since this authority was created, more than 18,000 Guardsmen, including members of the Delaware National Guard, have deployed in support of critical missions around the world. Yet, these service members don’t receive the same benefits as active duty service members deployed on the same missions.

Last Congress, Senator Coons introduced bipartisan legislation, the National Guard and Reserves Benefits Parity Act, which aimed to close this benefits gap. Two of the bill’s provisions passed into law in the Fiscal Year 2019 defense authorization bill, ensuring that Guardsmen and Reservists can receive a monthly allowance while deployed under this authority and are protected from a reduction in pay if they are federal civilian employees. The final provision from the National Guard and Reserves Benefits Parity Act – reducing the age at which Guardsmen and Reservists can receive retirement pay by three months for every 90 days they are deployed under this authority – is currently included in the Fiscal Year 2020 defense authorization bill that recently passed the House of Representatives. Senator Coons led a bipartisan group of colleagues in sending a letter to the senators negotiating the final Fiscal Year 2020 defense authorization bill, urging them to retain this provision in the final legislation. 

Joining Senator Coons in sending the letter are Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.).

Read the full text of the letter here or below.

August 2, 2019

The Honorable James Inhofe                                     The Honorable Jack Reed

Chairman                                                                     Ranking Member

Senate Armed Services Committee                            Senate Armed Services Committee
Russell Senate Building, Room 228                           Russell Senate Building, Room 228
Washington, D.C. 20510                                            Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Chairman Inhofe and Ranking Member Reed:

Thank you for your leadership in developing a bipartisan National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2020 that supports our service members and strengthens our security.  As you negotiate a conference report for the NDAA, we urge you to retain the provision below, which is included in H.R. 2500, the House’s Fiscal Year 2020 NDAA.

Section 627. Consideration of service on active duty to reduce age of eligibility forretired pay for non-regular service. Section 12731(f)(2)(B)(i) of title 10, United States Code, is amended by striking “under a provision of law referred to in section101(a)(13)(B) or under section 12301(d)” and inserting “under section 12301(d) or12304b of this title, or under a provision of law referred to in section 101(a)(13)(B).”

Last year, we cosponsored S. 2416, the bipartisan National Guard and Reserves Benefits Parity Act, which aimed to close the benefits gap for members of the National Guard and Reserve forces deployed under 12304b authority.  We appreciated your inclusion of two of the bill’s provisions in the Fiscal Year 2019 NDAA, which ensured that Guardsmen and Reservists can receive a monthly allowance while deployed under 12304b authority and are protected from a reduction in pay if they are federal civilian employees.  Section 627 of H.R. 2500 would address the final gap by reducing the age at which Guardsmen and Reservists can receive retirement pay by three months for every 90 days they are deployed on certain preplanned missions overseas.

Thank you for your consideration of this request and your continued work to ensure that Guardsmen and Reservists receive the support they deserve for their service to our country.