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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 20, 2006

Schumer Reveals: Benefits For Nat’l Guard And Reservists Lag Far Behind Active Military Despite Same Sacrifice

With Disability Claims by Guard and Reservists Denied at More than Twice the Rate of Active Military Members, Schumer Calls for Immediate VA Investigation

Standing at the US Naval and Marine Corps Reserve Center, Schumer Announces Sweeping New Legislation to Double Education Benefits and Increase Access to Medical Care

Schumer: During this Holiday Season, We Cannot Shortchan

With the National Guard and reserves stretched to the limit, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today revealed that benefits for members of the National Guard and reserves who are called in to military service lag far behind those for active military and announced his new sweeping legislation to close the benefits gap. Under the current system, a reserve solider who is attending school and participating in full time training receives only a $297/month stipend while active duty soldiers receive $1097/month. To level the playing field, Schumer today announced his plans to introduce new sweeping benefits legislation for members of the National Guard and reserves in the 110th Congress. Schumer also said that while 18% of disability claims by National Guard and reservists are denied, only 8% of active duty claims are denied and called for an immediate federal investigation in to the disparity.

“The members of the National Guard and reserves serving overseas are every bit as brave and sacrifice every bit as much, and thus ought to be treated fairly, no questions asked,” Schumer said. “The current two-tiered system needs to be leveled immediately to ensure the members of the reserve component receive the benefits they earned and deserve. With the guard and reserves already stretched nearly to the breaking point during this holiday season, we cannot and must not shortchange these heroes.”

Schumer today revealed that there is a shocking disparity in the benefits offered to active military members returning from serving in Iraq and Afghanistan and the members of the so-called “reserve component.” The reserve component includes any member of the National Guard or reserves who is called to serve with the active military overseas. From education benefits offered to returning soldiers who go back to school to the type and location of medical care available, members of the reserve component who return from a war zone lag far behind the benefits available to active military members.

More than 500,000 Guard and Reserve troops have served in active duty since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and they've made up nearly half of the force fighting against terrorists and in combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. There are 88,500 members of the reserve component currently mobilized with 1,680 of them from bases in New York. There are currently 11 navy sailors and 30 marines from the Naval Operations Center in Chili currently serving overseas.

Under the current system, a reserve solider who is attending school and participating in full time training receives only a $297/month stipend while active duty soldiers receive $1097/month, until the reserve soldier is deployed. After a reservist is deployed for at least three months, these benefits are increased, but even a reservist who serves in Iraq or Afghanistan never receives the full amount that their active duty counterparts receive. And, the reservists must remain within the Reserves, even after returning from active duty, in order to receive these benefits, which leaves them susceptible to being called up for another tour of duty in Afghanistan or Iraq.

The disparity also exists when it comes to access to medical care. When reservists return home with an injury, most are required to recuperate at military medical facilities that can be long distances from their homes, even on the other side of the country. When active duty soldiers return home, they recuperate at the military base where they live. Under the current system, if a reservist or National Guard member wanted to receive treatment close to home, they would have to resign their active duty status thereby voiding their military health benefits.

Schumer also revealed that even when members of the guard and reserve try to take advantage of the benefits that are available, the Department of Veterans Affairs has not treated them fairly and denied their claims at a far greater late. While 37% of active duty veterans have filed for service-related disability claims, only 20% of those in the National Guard or reservists have filed claims. However, 18% of the claims by National Guard and reservists are denied, while only 8% of active duty claims are denied.

“There is simply no logical reason that medical claims for reservists and National Guard should be denied at nearly twice the rate of active duty soldiers serving side-by-side with them,” Schumer added.

To ensure members of the guard and reserve receive the benefits and medical care they rightly deserve, Schumer today announced that when Congress reconvenes to begin the 110th Congress in January he will introduce new comprehensive benefits legislation. His legislation would level the playing field for members of the guard and reserves in Rensselaer and across the country. Specifically, Schumer’s bill would:

Double the education benefit: Schumer’s legislation would increase the education benefit for members of the reserve component to $600/month.

Ensure members of the guard and reserve can receive medical treatment close to home: Schumer’s legislation would create a new system where a member of the reserve component could receive treatment at a facility near their home without losing military health benefits.

Reimburse members of the reserve component for travel costs: Right now, the military does not reimburse members of the reserve component for traveling to train or for weekend drill. To ease the burden on upstate New York soldiers who may have to travel long distances throughout the state or even outside of New York, Schumer’s legislation require the military to reimburse members of the reserve for travel beyond 50 miles.

Schumer today also wrote to Veteran’s Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson asking him to direct the Department of Veteran’s Affairs Inspector General to immediately investigate why reserve component claims are denied at such a greater rate than active military.

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