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Legislation introduced to support Guard, Reserve servicemembers’ transition back to civilian life

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Improving TAP for Guard and Reserve Servicemembers Act would support Guard and Reserve servicemembers’ transition back to civilian life.

Congresswoman Jennifer McClellan of Virginia and Congressman Trent Kelly of Mississippi introduced the bipartisan legislation on Friday.

The Transition Assistance Program (TAP)  provides servicemembers with critical programs and resources as they complete their service and return to civilian life. Currently, TAP does not provide dedicated transition training for the Reserve Components of the Armed Forces. The bipartisan Improving TAP for Guard and Reserve Servicemembers Act would create a new TAP pathway for Reserves and National Guard members to provide specialized information assistance to meet their needs.

“Our military personnel make incredible sacrifices in service to our nation and deserve our full support during their transition back to civilian life,” McClellan said. “TAP provides critical resources to servicemembers during this period, including financial literacy programs, mental health awareness training, higher education and employment support, yet TAP does not provide tailored information for Guard and Reserve servicemembers. The Improving TAP for Guard and Reserve Servicemembers Act would create a Guard and Reserve-specific pathway that helps address the unique challenges the Reserve Components of our Armed Forces face, including differences in employment training needs and VA benefits and resources eligibility. I look forward to working with Congressman Kelly and our colleagues on the House Armed Services Committee to build a broad, bipartisan coalition of support to move this bill forward.”

Kelly said the legislation is crucial.

“It’s our duty to empower those who serve to thrive beyond their military service,” Kelly said.

The Improving TAP for Guard & Reserve Servicemembers Act would:

  • Create a dedicated pathway within TAP to provide specialized information assistance to meet the unique needs of our Guard and Reserve servicemembers and clarify which VA health and retirement benefits are available to Guard and Reserve members versus their full-time active-duty counterparts.

  • Ensure U.S. National Guard and Reserve servicemembers get the most out of the TAP program.

  • Raise awareness and educate servicemembers on the rights and benefits entitled to them.

“The Soldiers and Airmen transitioning out of the National Guard have very distinct and unique challenges that the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States (EANGUS) could not be more grateful to Congresswoman McClellan and Congressman Kelly for addressing. With the duality of being a Citizen Soldier, these issues are easy to dismiss as concerns outside of the Military scope of support, yet, with this bill, the Transition Assistance Program will embrace gratitude for the service of our Guard members and connect them with resources, education, and opportunities to demonstrate the full potential that they can contribute when they take the uniform off. This bill instantly helps us promote the wellbeing of our Soldiers, Airmen and their families. EANGUS is proud to be a supporter of the Improving TAP for Guard and Reserve Servicemember Act, this bill will improve lives all across the country,” Jeff Frisby, Executive Director of the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States (EANGUS), said.

Allison Jaslow, Chief Executive Officer of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), said no one who serves in uniform should be overlooked as they transition.

“We need to be intentional about supporting the unique needs of many of our nation’s veterans, to include those who’ve served in the National Guard and Reserve components, and IAVA applauds Congresswoman McClellan’s leadership to do just that. Now we just need Congress to move swiftly to ensure that progress is made to improve the transition process for all those who’ve served,” Jaslow said.

Returning home from deployment is “a trying time for all servicemembers. National Guardsmen who transition from active full-time orders back to regular drilling status encounter distinct challenges as they navigate the shift between military and civilian life. Reserve Component members make up 52 percent of the nation’s fighting force and they deserve a transition assistance program that fits their needs. We must ensure our members receive the resources and assistance necessary for successful reintegration. NGAUS supports this legislation and greatly appreciates the efforts of Congressman Kelly and Congresswoman McClellan in pushing this forward,” retired Maj Gen. Francis M. McGinn, President of the National Guard Association of the United States (NGAUS), said.

The needs of servicemembers in the National Guard and Reserves differ, according to Kristina Keenan, Deputy Legislative Director of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW). They need assistance understanding VA benefits and educational programs.

“The VFW supports the Improving TAP for Guard and Reserve Servicemembers Act to create a specific pathway within the Transition Assistance Program for the Reserve components. This group of servicemembers deserve a smooth transition to civilian life with the resources that will be meaningful to them,” Keenan said.

The legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Reps. Eleanor Holmes Norton of Alabama, Gwen Moore of Wisconsin, Julia Brownley of California, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Abigail Spanberger of Virginia, Jennifer Wexton of Virginia, Shri Thanedar of Michigan and Derrick Van Orden of Wisconsin.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.