Bill gets troops credit to retire

Great Falls Tribune

by Jenn Rowell

Legislators have introduced a bill in Congress to ensure National Guard and Reserve troops receive early retirement credit they’ve earned through active duty service.

Sens. Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., are working with Rep. Tom Latham, R-Iowa, in the House to address a technicality from a 2008 law.

Qualified active duty troops can receive retirement benefits immediately after completing their service, but most reservists have to wait until 60 to begin receiving those same benefits.

The 2008 law allowed the minimum retirement age for reservists to move up by three months for every 90 days of deployment overseas, but under current law, those 90 days have to occur within one fiscal year. If the deployment spans two fiscal years, the reservist gets no retirement credit. The bill would award credit to reservists for those deployments over two years.

Active duty troops fall under Title 10, under the authority of the president, but Guard and Reserve troops are typically under Title 32, which is under the authority of the state. When a Guard or reserve troop is called up to Title 10 for a mission, such as an overseas deployment or disaster response, they accrue active duty benefits. The amount of time spent on Title 10 orders affects the kind and amount of benefits they receive.

Mike Flaherty, state chairman at Montana Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, said the Guard and reserve make up about 48 percent of the total military force.

“It’s pretty astonishing really,” he said.

Flaherty, a Great Falls businessman, said they train the same as their active duty counterparts, just one weekend a month, but are being called on more frequently for deployments and other operations.

But normally when they’re home, they aren’t on active orders.

“They don’t qualify for certain things because they’re state employees at that time,” Flaherty said.

Members of the 120th Fighter Wing of the Montana Air National Guard is currently deployed to Alaska supporting homeland security missions. While there, they are on Title 10 status, meaning they are accruing active duty benefits.

Some members of the unit had just returned from a similar mission in Hawaii that spanned two years.

Tim Lincoln, chairman of the Montana National Guard Association and Dennis Stoner, president of the Enlisted Association of the National Guard for Montana, support the bill.

“Since Sept. 11, 2001, the Montana National Guard has deployed over 4,000 soldiers and airmen all over the world, with many deploying into direct combat areas multiple times,” Lincoln and Stoner said in a release. “The era of the Guard as a strategic reserve is over and the benefits of fighting our nation’s wars should reflect our contributions. We strongly support this correction so our members get the credit they have sacrificed so much to achieve.”