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Witness Testimony of The Honorable Timothy Walz, U.S. House of Representatives

I am here to speak in support of H.R. 679, Honor America's Guard-Reserve Retirees Act. The bill ensures that we recognize the service and sacrifice of members of the National Guard by  honoring them with status as Veterans under law. I would like to thank Chairman Runyan and the group of bi-partisan Members of Congress who introduced this bill with me.

I would like to commend the Subcommittee’s Chairman and the Ranking Member, as well as the Majority and Minority staff for what I consider being an exceptional work ethic in this Subcommittee, a sense of urgency to get things done. Thank you for the opportunity to move this legislation forward.

The men and women of the reserve components take the same oath to serve and protect our country as the active component: they sacrifice their time and energy and stand ready if called upon, to serve in combat in time of war. For those who have completed 20 years or more in the reserve component but have not served a qualifying period of federal active duty, we honor their service with similar benefits given to active duty military retirees - with one notable exception: they are denied the title “Veteran”.

Today, a reservist can successfully complete a Guard or Reserve career but not earn the title of, “Veteran of the Armed Forces of the United States,” unless he or she has served on Title 10 active duty for other than training purposes. Title 38 excludes from the definition of “Veteran career,” those reservists who have not served on Title 10 active duty for other than training purposes. Drill training, annual training, active duty for training, and Title 32 duty are not deemed qualifying service for “Veteran” status.

H.R. 679 would recognize all people who served in the National Guard and Reserve for more than 20 years by honoring all of them with the status of Veteran.  It specifically bestows no additional benefits to these brave men and women, it merely honors them with a title of Veteran.

H.R. 679 is about recognizing our National Guard and Reserve components play an integral role in the Defense of our nation. It is about recognizing that our all-volunteer force would be unsustainable if it were not for the men and women who dedicate twenty years of their lives to the training and welfare of America’s Soldiers, Airmen, Sailors and Marines. These servicemembers could have spent their time and talents doing other things; they could have spent their weekends enjoying time with their families.  Instead they chose to prepare to defend our country. It is high time that the U.S. Congress honor their service and sacrifice.

This is a question of honor for those who have served our nation faithfully for 20 years in the Guard or Reserve. This legislation corrects this injustice, at no cost to taxpayers. There are over 280,000 former Reservist and Guardsman across the country who served dutifully for 20 years that will benefit. I believe that these men and women have earned the respect and recognition that comes with the designation of “Veteran,” which is why we have introduced H.R. 679, the Honor America’s Guard-Reserve Retirees Act.

The House of Representatives passed this legislation without any opposition in both the 111th and 112th Congresses. Last Congress fifty-three bi-partisan members made supporting this legislation a priority, and the legislation continues to gain support today.

I emphatically encourage the House Veterans Affairs Committee to streamline this legislation through the committee and bring this to the floor of the House of Representatives. Thank you for your time and consideration.