By Jim Emerson, staff writer
This week the Senate passed the Century Veterans Benefits Delivery Act (S 1203), granting “honorary” veteran status to about 200,000 Reserve and National Guard retirees. Those particular members have not served the necessary qualifying period of active service, 24 Months, to be entitled to veteran benefits. The house will pass a similar measure, The Honor America’s Guard-Reserve Retirees Act (HR 1384), also a standalone bill to grant Reserve and Guard retirees veteran status. This will allow the weekend warriors who weren’t called to active duty to receive veteran benefits. The 200,000 who never served 24 months on active duty will be recognized for their service as veterans.
The 24 month clause was not well known, but imagine their surprise when retirees learned that they were not veterans according to U.S. Code: Title 38 – VETERANS’ BENEFITS. This law impacted retirees who never had a DD-214, Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty. Even though they fulfilled Guard or reservist requirements in various jobs or locations, they were never called to active duty. Despite all of the work these troops did to protect and serve the home front it doesn’t count as active duty service.
The bills will only bestow the right to be called a vet but it will have a few caveats. The bill recognizes the retirees as vets to honor their service but will not extend the same benefits as active duty and other veterans. Congress is concerned that Reserve and Guard retirees will demand all of the benefits granted to veterans in accordance with U.S. Code: Title 38. Reservists and National Guardsmen who are veterans will still be entitled benefits granted to them by law.
The act of allowing a few retired Guards and reservists the status of vets may confuse bureaucrats in the Veteran’s Administration who may unintentionally extend benefits by confusing them with previously, legally recognized vets. That means they will receive the treatment from the VA that qualified vets receive. They may get a VA home loan. Obama’s Veteran’s Administration bureaucrats represent the only opposition to granting veteran status. David L. McLenachen, Director of the Pension and Fiduciary Service, Department of Veteran’s Affairs said, the VA opposes extending “veteran status to those who never performed active military, naval or air service, the very circumstance [that] qualifies an individual as a veteran.” But after 9-11, Guard and Reservists should be recognized as Vets given that the war on terror doesn’t end at the borders. Give them the respect they are owed. Recognize them as fellow vets.
A little side note. Not everyone serving on active duty has served in a hazardous duty zone.