Measure would offset lost income of citizen-soldiers

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is seeking to help families of National Guard and Reserve troops whose incomes as citizen-soldiers are reduced by deployments in support of combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A bill sponsored by Reid, D-Nev., calls for augmenting their paychecks with funds from taxpayers who contribute some or all of their tax refunds to a program that would be authorized under the Voluntary Support for Reservists and National Guard Members Act of 2009.

In a conference call Tuesday, Reid said many citizen-soldiers incur a monthly income loss when they are involuntarily mobilized.

The amount sometimes is half of what they make in civilian jobs such as when a paramedic is called to serve overseas. The loss is compounded by the ongoing recession.

Although those who volunteer for active-duty assignments wouldn’t be covered by the act, Reid said, "We had to start someplace, and this a good place to start."

In most cases, especially when an entire unit is called up, those members of the Guard and Reserve would be covered under the proposed legislation.

Reid said much of income losses could be offset through contributions made from taxpayer refunds. A contribution could be as little as $5 per refund. In all, he said, there are 106 million refunds issued, accounting for $246 billion based on an average refund of more than $2,300.

In introducing the bill last week, Reid noted that Nevada alone has more than 3,000 Guard personnel plus another 1,000 reservists who could be affected by involuntary activations.

"In our democracy, we enjoy the luxury of an all-volunteer military force. Yet in volunteering, many of our citizen-soldiers are financially penalized for their service," Reid said.

"A National Guard medic might earn much less while he or she is deployed in Afghanistan than they did working a full-time job in a Nevada hospital. This legislation gives American taxpayers the option of contributing money to help our military families to make up for wages lost during a deployment," he told Congress on June 3.

Contact reporter Keith Rogers at krogers@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0308.

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