Iowa Congressman Bruce Braley today released a report from the House Oversight Committee concerning the denial of full G.I. Bill benefits to members of the Iowa National Guard. About 600 members of the 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry, based in Waterloo, were affected by an Army error last year that disqualified them from receiving the education benefits.
The 133rd has members from Iowa and Minnesota. Those that were denied the G.I. Bill benefits were eventually granted a waiver. Braley says the committee’s investigation uncovered a host of disparities between the treatment of active duty Army soldiers and members of the Guard and Reserves.
“I think the most stark example of that difference is under the GI Bill in 2008, the maximum monthly education benefit for active duty soldiers is $1,100 per month, while the maximum education benefit for Reserve troops is only $217 per month,” Braley said. Braley has been pushing for the Chief of the National Guard Bureau to be allowed a spot on the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
He says that would “ensure that the voice of the National Guard is heard and help ensure that National Guard members and leaders get the support and services they need.” Braley adds that it doesn’t make sense that Guard and Reserve forces are provided with inferior benefits and services, when they’re facing the same risks and providing the same service as active duty forces.
The Democrat from Waterloo requested the formal investigation into the denial of G.I. Bill benefits last October. “One of the best things to happen as a result of this investigation is the Army learned that there were two units from Pennsylvania and Nevada that had also been denied education assistance benefits and weren’t even aware of it,” Braley said. “They have offered those individuals who were affected the option of having their orders amended like the troops in Iowa and Minnesota.”
The House Oversight Committed report states that the laws governing the Guard and Reserves are based on the assumption that they will see infrequent active duty for short duration.
However, the number of duty days served by members of the Guard and Reserve has increased almost fivefold since 2001. The 133rd served in Iraq for 17 months – longer than any other unit in the U.S. military.