Lincoln Introduces Legislation to Properly Recognize

Arkansas’s Veterans of the National Guard and Reserves

Washington – U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) is working to ensure that the men and women of our National Guard and Reserves who have served our nation honorably for 20 or more years receive the designation of “veteran” under law that they have earned and deserve.

“Throughout my career in public service, I have worked to provide Arkansas’s military service members, veterans, and their families with the benefits and services they have earned,” Lincoln said.  “Recognition as a ‘veteran’ is a matter of honor for our men and women who have served in uniform and a designation that should be proudly conveyed upon them.”

Lincoln’s “Honor America’s Guard-Reserve Retirees Act” is bipartisan legislation that would grant full veteran status to members of the reserve components who have 20 or more years of service and do not otherwise qualify under law.

As defined by current law, members of the reserve components who have completed 20 or more years of service are considered “military retirees.” Upon reaching age 60, they are eligible for all of the benefits received by active duty military retirees, such as military retired pay, government health care and other benefits of service, including a number of veterans’ benefits. However, if they have not served a qualifying period of federal active duty other than active duty for training, they are denied full standing as a “veteran” of the armed forces.

“This issue is a matter of honor to those who through no fault of their own were never activated, but served their nation faithfully for 20 or more years,” Lincoln said.  “All members of the reserve forces volunteer for service to our nation and are liable for activation in its defense. Twenty or more years of service and qualification for reserve retired pay should be sufficient qualifying service for full veteran status under law.”

The current legal definition of veteran technically excludes these men and women from various veterans’ ceremonies and initiatives, such as events encouraging veterans to wear their medals on Veterans’ Day and Memorial Day, and in legislation authorizing veterans to offer a hand salute during the playing of the national anthem or the presentation or posting of the colors.

“While these events may not seem of importance to some, for those who wore the same uniform, were subject to the same code of military justice, received the same training and spent twenty years or more being liable for call-up, this lack of recognition fails to acknowledge their sacrifice,” Lincoln said. “I have heard from many Arkansans who have called on me to support this initiative, and I am proud to be leading this effort in the United States Senate.”

This legislation seeks to change only the legal definition of “veteran,” not the legal qualifications for access to any benefits.

Lincoln’s legislation is endorsed by The Military Coalition—a consortium of nationally prominent uniformed services and veterans associations representing over 5.5 million members.

Col. Scott Sanders, President of the Arkansas Department of the Reserve Officers Association, a member of The Military Coalition, said, “It’s time we give these warriors the designation that embodies the highest dignity and honor they richly deserve.  It’s time that we make good on their behalf and grant them the recognition they have earned.”

Statement by The Military Coalition:

“As a nation, we have realized that our military cannot function without the Guard and Reserve.  The large numbers of Reserve Component members who have been called to serve in OEF/OIF will qualify as veterans.  However, there are those who serve at the armories and bases and whose jobs are to make sure the other members of their units are qualified and ready to deploy.  Yet by virtue of those very jobs, they will never deploy themselves.  There are others who, while ready to deploy had they been needed, were not called to active duty during their time of service.  Under current law, even if they serve for twenty years or more, they are not and will not be considered as veterans. Thus, the simple step of recognizing the service of those who spend twenty years or more as meriting the distinction of being called a veteran is a major issue for them, one of pride and one of having their sacrifices recognized.”