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Guard, Reserve Benefit From 2006 Defense Authorization

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 9, 2006 – The 2006 National Defense Authorization Act signed into law Jan. 6 provides new or enhanced benefits in addition to a 3.1 percent pay raise for National Guard and Reserve members, a senior defense official said.

President Bush signed the legislation Jan. 6, providing a variety of benefits designed to bring reserve-component compensation more on par with what the active component receives, Chuck Witschonke, DoD's deputy director for compensation, said during an interview with the American Forces Press Service and the Pentagon Channel on a range of issues related to the act.

The package provides other benefits that affect all forces, both active and reserve, including better overall compensation and improved quality of life, while promoting overall recruiting and retention, he said.

The law also provides a variety of benefits specifically targeting members of the reserve components. These include:

  • Full housing allowance payments for reserve members called to active duty for more than 30 days, versus the previous 140-day requirement;
  • Income replacement benefits to help offset the pay loss some reservists and guardsmen experience when called to active duty, based on specific guidelines to be established within the next six months;
  • Accession and affiliation bonuses of up to $20,000 for enlistment in the Selected Reserve, and an increase for officers for service in the Selected Reserve, from $6,000 to $10,000;
  • A bonus of up to $100,000 for members with a designated critical skill or who volunteer to serve in a designated high-priority unit; and
  • Extension of eligibility for a prior-service enlistment bonus to include Selected Reserve members who previously received one.
Witschonke emphasized the new law does not guarantee that all servicemembers will qualify for these pays and benefits, or that those who do will receive the highest amounts authorized. Rather, he said, the law gives defense and service leaders the flexibility they need to tailor the force to meet operational, recruiting and retention goals.

One big change in the new law is a provision that shortens the duty time before a reserve-component member qualifies for the full housing allowance. Reserve and Guard members called to active duty for more than 30 days will now get the full allowance, just as active-component troops do, Witschonke said.

Another benefit, the critical-skills retention bonus, will be "a very good tool" in helping keep members with important experience and training in the force and in maintaining readiness in high-priority units, Witschonke said.

The 2006 authorization act also increases recruiting bonuses for the Reserve and Guard, Witschonke said. The new law authorizes accession and affiliation bonuses of up to $20,000, to be offered as needed by the services, he said.

For reserve-component members who experience pay cuts when called to active duty, the new provision for income replacement will help reduce the strain military service places on the family, he said. "It can be difficult for a family that has been living on a certain income to now have less money, particularly at a time when they're stressed by a change in their lifestyle" due to a military deployment, Witschonke said.

The income-replacement program won't be instituted for six months, in accordance with the law. At that time, specific guidelines and qualifications will be issued, he said. This authority will end in December 2008.

These enhancements in reserve-component pay and benefits are particularly critical during the global war on terror, when members of the Guard and Reserve are playing a major role in U.S. national defense, Witschonke said.

More information about pay and benefits is posted on the DoD's military compensation Web site.

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