Reservist Benefits

The Department of Defense (DoD) plans to update Reserve Component Duty Statuses with the goal of simplifying the system and creating equity for reservist benefits

Reservist Benefits

In a Federal News Radio article published January 16, 2017, author Scott Maucione reports on anticipated Department of Defense efforts to increase efficiency within the Reserve Component and bring long-awaited equity to reservists’ benefits.

Reservist benefits, including survivor benefits, may hinge on the status of the Reserve or National Guard member while serving. Todd Weiler, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manpower and Reserve Affairs told Federal News Radio in an exclusive interview “the benefits are completely different for the surviving spouses” if an aircraft goes down with both active duty service members and reservists aboard, based solely on the status of their military orders.

The difference lies in the statutory authority under which the military member serves. Active duty service members serve exclusively under Title 10 authority. National Guard members may serve under Title 10 or Title 32 authorities, depending on a number of factors including authorized end strength in troop numbers and budgets. Other factors include:

  • Whether the status is active duty, full-time National Guard duty, or inactive duty
  • Whether the duty is voluntary or involuntary
  • Whether the mission is training, support, or operations
  • Whether the operation is under State or Federal control

This is a classic case of government systems and processes not keeping pace with the reality of the changing responsibilities. In the 2015 final report, the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission (MCRMC) noted the current duty status system was developed to support a “strategic Reserve” in which inactive duty and annual training were the norm, and operational missions were limited. Thirteen years of war have changed that landscape, and now members and survivors can suffer the consequences of a now piecemeal and complex system. Examples of adverse effects include disruption in pay and benefits, including gaps in health care coverage for both the service member and family if there is a gap in the military order.

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2016 (Public Law 114-92) provided for an assessment to be conducted by the Secretary of Defense for “the consolidation of statutory authorities by which members of the reserve components of the Armed Forces may be ordered to perform duty”. The Secretary was directed to specifically assess each of the six broad duty status categories as replacements for the 30 reserve component duty statuses currently authorized. The objective was to determine whether the status consolidation would increase efficiency.

Assessment results were due to the Committees on Armed Services of the Senate and House of Representatives no later than 180 days after enactment of the NDAA FY2016. If the Secretary of Defense determines an alternative approach preferable, a draft of the legislation necessary to amend titles 10, 14, 32, and 37 of the United States Code and other provisions of law for implementation by October 1, 2018 must be submitted.

With a reported 400 plus laws to change, that is no small task. To realize equity in benefits for service members tasked to the same mission – it’s worth it.

Look for an update on Reservist Benefits from VetsHQ once the Secretary of Defense’s report is released in March 2017.