Expanding Montana Guardsmen and Reservists’ GI Bill Benefits is Aim of Bipartisan Tester Bill

Senator introduced legislation to ensure Guardsmen and Reservists receive educational benefits for all of their federal service time

(U.S. Senate) – U.S. Senator Jon Tester, Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, recently introduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation to ensure National Guardsmen and Reservists receive educational benefits for all of the time they spent in uniform.

The Guard and Reserve GI Bill Parity Act would provide GI Bill benefits to Guardsmen and Reservists for every day they spent in federal service since September 11, 2001, including all active duty activations under Title 10 and Title 32 in addition to drill weekends and annual trainings.

“Montana Guardsmen and Reservists risk their lives to keep us safe on missions at home and abroad, and deserve GI Bill benefits that reflect their service to our nation,” said Tester. “Our bipartisan legislation will ensure they rightly get the full education benefits they have earned, and continue the legacy of generations of Montanans who served our country using the GI Bill to get an education.”

Currently, the time Guardsmen and Reservists spend on active duty along with many National Guard deployments do not count towards accruing GI Bill benefits. The Senator’s Guard and Reserve GI Bill Parity Act will fix this disparity—ensuring Guardsmen and Reservists are eligible for GI Bill benefits for all of their federal service time.

The Senator’s push to fix this disparity for Guardsmen and Reservists is supported by stakeholders and Veterans Service Organizations in Montana and across the country, including the Montana National Guard Association, the University of Montana Military and Veterans Services, the National Guard Association of the United States (NGAUS), Student Veterans of America (SVA), Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States, the Reserve Organization of America (ROA), the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), The American Legion, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), and Veterans Education Success.

“Montana’s Soldiers and Airmen invest many hours and sweat to train and prepare for our dual mission of serving our state when called upon to protect lives and property during wildfire, flooding, pandemics, and other natural disasters as well as our national mission to serve the country,” said Montana National Guard Association Executive Director Keith J. Kelly. “They meet the same standards as their active-duty brothers and sisters when preparing for deployment. Thousands of Montanan’s have served both at home and abroad.  The Montana National Guard Association is honored to support The Guard and Reserve GI Bill Parity Act of 2024 and its companion House bill.  This goes a long way in recognizing that guardsmen and reservists train and serve alongside the active duty and brings parity to a benefit by granting service recognition toward the Post-9/11 GI Bill eligibility.”

“This bill will help enrich the overall experience of our Guardsmen and Reservists at the University of Montana with more access to financial education benefits for their service,” said Patrick Beckwith, Director of Military and Veterans Services at the University of Montana. “We are grateful for Senator Tester consistently looking for opportunities to improve benefits for Montana’s military service members.”

“When reserve component servicemembers perform the identical job and make the same sacrifices as their active duty counterparts, they should be recognized with the same benefits,” said MOAA President and CEO Lt. Gen. Brian Kelly, USAF (Ret). “The Guard and Reserve GI Bill Parity Act expands essential education benefits and acknowledges the reserve component’s essential contributions to our nation.”

"The National Guard and Reserve play an indispensable role in various operations, including disaster relief efforts, homeland security missions, and overseas deployments. Their flexibility and readiness are crucial in responding to natural disasters such as hurricanes, wildfires, and floods, providing essential support to affected communities," said SVA Vice President of Government Affairs Tammy Barlet. “The Guard and Reserve GI Bill Parity Act of 2024 is a crucial piece of legislation that addresses a longstanding disparity in educational benefits for members of the National Guard and Reserve components of the U.S. Military. Ultimately, it honors the commitment of these servicemembers by affording them the opportunity to pursue higher education and achieve their career goals.”

A leading advocate for expanding Guardsmen and Reservists’ access to GI Bill benefits, Tester introduced the Guard and Reserve GI Bill Parity Act in the 116th Congress and the Guard, Reserve, and Active Duty (GRAD) VA Educational Assistance Parity Act of 2021 in the 117th Congress.