WASHINGTON (Dec. 12, 2016) — All retired National Guardsmen and Reservists are now only a presidential signature away from finally being recognized as veterans.
Congress approved legislation late last week that expands the legal definition of a veteran to include Guardsmen and Reservists that honorably serve 20 years. It will now go to the White House as part of a package of veterans bills.
The current definition requires a Guardsman or Reservist to have spent more than 179 days on federal active duty for other than training to be considered a veteran, regardless of how many years they served.
“The current definition has long been out of date,” said retired Maj. Gen. Gus Hargett, the NGAUS president. “It fails to recognize the deterrence value of training and readiness to our national security. Many of those affected underwent arduous, even dangerous, training. They helped win the Cold War. Others worked in direct support of those who did deploy. Yet our nation tells them that they aren’t veterans.
“That’s wrong,” he added, “but we’re on the cusp of righting that wrong.”
NGAUS has been pushing the change for six years. It easily passed in the House in every session only to be halted in the Senate by fears that an expansion of the definition would raise the cost of veteran entitlement programs.
“This has never been about money for us,” Hargett said. “It took a while, but we finally convinced everyone in the Senate that Guard retirees weren’t looking for more benefits. They just wanted the honor of their nation calling them veterans.”
The House and Senate actually approved the change last year, but the language was not identical. This forced the two chambers to come up with a compromise provision, which they did last week.
Hargett credited Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Sen. Johnny Isakson, R- Ga., Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., and Rep. Timothy J. Walz, D-Minn., for the final push in their respective chambers to bring the matter to a vote before Congress adjourned for the year Friday.
Reporters, Editors & Producers: Retired Maj. Gen. Gus Hargett is available for interviews or to appear as a subject matter expert on defense issues related to the National Guard. Contact John Goheen at 202-408-5882 to schedule an interview or appearance.
About NGAUS: The association was created in 1878 to provide unified Guard representation in Washington. In their first productive meeting after Reconstruction, militia officers from the North and South formed the association with the goal of obtaining better equipment and training by educating Congress on militia requirements. Today, 138 years later with nearly 45,000 members nationwide, NGAUS has the same mission.