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Bill to extend GI Bill benefits to Guard and reserves passes US House

Members of the California National Guard stand watch at the Downtown Commons area of Sacramento, Calif. June 1, 2020.
Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press
Members of the California National Guard stand watch at the Downtown Commons area of Sacramento, Calif. June 1, 2020.

The U.S. House passed a bill Wednesday that will help California National Guard troops and reserves qualify for benefits similar to those earned by active duty troops.

In the past 18 months, the California National Guard has sent hundreds of troops to fight wildfires.

They have been sent to supplement local police during civil unrest. California Guard troops were stationed at the U.S. Capitol and the state capital.

They continue to staff food banks. Medical teams have begun supplementing healthcare workers at COVID-19 test sites around the state.

Despite the workload, they don’t always qualify for the same benefits as active duty service members.

A bill by U.S. Rep. Mike Levin would make it easier for them to qualify for the GI Bill, which helps pay for college.

“The reality is that we are expecting a whole lot more from our guard and reserves and we just want some basic fairness in how those benefits accrue,” Levin said.

Dating back to the start of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, guard troops have assumed many of the same risks as their active duty counterparts, though pay and other benefits could be very different.

“Under this legislation, every day that you’re engaged in readiness training,” Levin said. “Every day you are serving would count toward GI bill benefits.”

Right now, guard troops and reserves only have access when they are called up to active duty by the federal government.

“You have examples of some Special Operations Guard where their two years of training haven’t counted at all,” Levin said.

Part of a two year effort, the bill passed the house in a bipartisan vote 287 to135 with all Democrats and 68 Republicans signing on. It now moves onto the Senate.

Bill to extend GI Bill benefits to Guard and reserves passes US House