Retired National Guard and Reservists will be granted veterans status for the first time, following the presidential approval of the Veterans Healthcare and Improvement Act of 2016.
Before the act was signed, Guard and Reserve members were considered veterans only if they served in a federalized capacity (Title 10) for more than 179 days – other than training. Guard and Reserve personnel who attended regular training and drills for two decades, but never federalized, could not claim veteran status. Now, that has changed.
“The previous definition was long outdated”, said Verdie Bowen, director of the State Office of Veterans Affairs. “Many of those affected underwent arduous, even dangerous training during their 20 years of service. In Alaska, Guard and Reservists helped win the Cold War”.
With the signing of this act, it now corrects a wrongful status of those who served in the National Guard and Reserves. “For so long, Guard and Reservists have known they have served, but they could not call themselves veterans. For some members, this eliminates the doubt”, Bowen said. “The status change does not provide an increase in veteran benefits; however it does offer pride of identity.”
The change in the law simply recognizes those who have served. For those in the Guard and Reserve, that can mean responding to large scale emergencies, natural disasters and other events on the home front – in addition to training for combat deployments overseas. This change is a good step in the right direction.
Questions can be directed to Verdie Bowen or Office of Veterans Affairs staff at 907-334-0874, toll free at 888-248-3682 or email veterans.alaska.gov.