Begich Bill Assists Guard & Reserve Members with Travel Expenses
"TRIP" Act increases reimbursement for drill-related travel costs
Recognizing the personal and monetary costs faced by National Guard and Reserve members who often have to travel hundreds of miles to fulfill their monthly training requirements, U.S. Sen. Mark Begich will introduce legislation Tuesday to adequately compensate Guard & Reserve members for those costs. The Travel Reimbursement for Inactive Duty Training Personnel (TRIP) Act adjusts limits and reimbursement rates associated with travel for inactive duty drill time, an issue that has been especially challenging for Alaska Guard and Reserve members.
"We ask much of our Guard and Reserve members who often leave jobs and family to train as soldiers and airmen. The least we can do is make sure they are reimbursed for the travel costs associated with training," Begich said. "It's the right thing to do for the men and women who are training to defend our nation when called."
Current law and regulations limit reimbursement for travel to actual expenses incurred for anything over 300 miles round-trip. A trip less than 300 miles isn't reimbursed at all, and there is no reimbursement for air travel when driving is not an option.
"Our Guard and Reserve members live across our unique and vast state. Some live in Anchorage or Fairbanks or Bethel. Some live in more remote areas and must travel hundreds of miles to get to their duty station," Begich said. "Many of them don't get adequate reimbursement for that travel and some don't get reimbursed at all."
Begich's TRIP Act has three major provisions:
· Allow Guard & Reserve members to be reimbursed at the IRS business rate (51 cents per mile) for travel to drill duty;
· Lower the mileage threshold from 300 miles round trip to 100 miles roundtrip (allowing someone in Wasilla to get reimbursed for drill duty in Anchorage); and
· For the first time allow reimbursement for air travel when there is no driving option.
Begich announced his legislation during a press conference at the National Guard recruiting office at the Dimond Mall in Anchorage. He was joined by Jan Myers, director of family programs for Alaska National Guard who talked about the financial challenges faced by National Guard & Reserve members who are citizen soldiers training to serve their country, and the impact on families.
More than 5,000 National Guard & Reserve members in Alaska could benefit from the bill.
The TRIP Act is cosponsored by Sen. Jon Tester, Sen. Patrick Leahy, Sen. Patty Murray, and Sen. Ron Wyden. The bill is endorsed by the National Guard Association of the United States and the Military Officers Association of America.