By Rick Maze, Air Force Times
A House subcommittee voted Thursday to allow retired National Guard and Reserve members to legally be called "veterans."
The move confers no benefits or awards to retired reservists, but it could be symbolically important to those who served a full military career but never had the extended mobilization time needed under current law to fit the definition of "veteran."
The bill, HR 679, passed the House Veterans' Affairs Committee's disability assistance panel by voice vote and with no debate. A similar measure has passed the House of Representatives twice before, only to die from inaction by the Senate.
Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., a retired Army National Guard command sergeant major, said the bill would allow about 280,000 retired Guard and Reserve members to be called and to call themselves veterans.
Reservists take the same oath as other service members, sacrifice their time and can serve full careers standing ready to serve if called, he said. Retirement after 20 years of service offers similar benefits as those for active-duty retirees, "with one notable exception: they are denied the title 'veteran.' "
The title, he said, is all they get from the bill.
"It specifically bestows no additional benefits," Walz said.
Retired Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Andrew Davis, executive director of the Reserve Officers Association, said the bill provides recognition for Guard and Reserve members who "were ready to answer the call but couldn't."
"These individuals are ready to deploy but because of their assigned duties may never serve in that capacity, especially now, with the services reducing extended mobilizations," Davis said in a statement.
Retired Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Lani Burnett, executive director of the Reserve Enlisted Association, said the subcommittee vote "represents an important step towards keeping faith" with Guard and Reserve members.
"These individuals have served faithfully nonetheless and are long overdue for their recognition as veterans," Burnett said.