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Senators take new crack at expanding reserve retirement credit

Nov. 18, 2013 - 03:52PM   |  
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Two senators are planning another effort to make it easier for members of the National Guard and reserves to earn earlier retired pay as a reward for extended active-duty service.

Sens. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., and Jon Tester, D-Mont., seek to relax requirements of a 2008 law that provides retired pay 90 days earlier than age 60 for every 90 cumulative days of active service in support of a contingency operation.

Current law requires that the 90 days be served in a single fiscal year in order to be counted toward early retirement. Guard and reserve members have complained that is unfair to those whose mobilizations span two fiscal years, such as a summer-to-fall deployment that stretches over the Oct. 1 start of the fiscal year.

Chambliss and Tester have introduced an amendment they plan to offer this week to the Senate version of the 2014 defense authorization bill that would count 90 days of aggregate service spread over two consecutive fiscal years toward receiving earlier retirement checks.

This is not their first such effort, and their chances of approval this time are unclear.

When Chambliss, the chief sponsor of the 2008 law, first tried to get the reserve retirement system changed, he had widespread support in Congress because so many states had National Guard and reserve units called up to serve in support of the missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

With fewer Guard and reserve mobilizations as a result of the end of the Iraq mission and the scaling back of operations in Afghanistan, Chambliss and Tester are finding it difficult to gain attention and wide support for their latest effort.

This could be one of Chamblissí last attempts to change the retirement rules, as he has announced he will not run for re-election in 2014.

He and Tester are hoping the name of their amendment might help. Itís called the Reserve Retirement Credit Correction, wording they hope will convince colleagues they are not trying to offer a new and expensive military benefit, but rather are seeking to fix a mistake.

They are not trying for a bigger change in the retirement formula pushed by National Guard and reserve groups that would make the active service credit retroactive to 2001, the start of what was then called the global war on terrorism.

Because of funding problems, the retirement credit has applied only to active service beginning Jan. 28, 2008, leaving 600,000 people who had previously mobilized for Iraq and Afghanistan operations with no retirement credit for their service

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