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Begich Pushes Expanded Benefits for National Guard & Reserve, Disabled Service Members & Surviving Spouses

Introduces legislation supporting more benefits

In an effort to recognize the service and sacrifices of those serving our country, U.S. Sen. Mark Begich has introduced two new pieces of legislation expanding benefits around travel and services for those who are disabled.

The first bill would provide National Guard members, Reservists and their families the same space-available travel privileges on Department of Defense (DoD) aircraft as active duty service members. Currently, members and retirees of the reserve component have limited space-available travel opportunities on DoD aircraft.

The second bill provides commissary and exchange privileges to former members of the Armed Forces who are retired or separated from service for physical disabilities. Presently, members who are separated from the military because of disabilities and can no longer continue serving, cannot continue to use military commissaries and exchange facilities.

“When it comes to military service, we need to take every opportunity to ensure benefits are adequate and equal,” Begich said. “These are two areas brought to our attention by Alaska’s military community where we can provide fixes to make sure there is no gap in the types of benefits available.”

Begich’s bill, the National Guard, Reserve “Gray Area” Retiree and Surviving Spouse Space-Available Travel Equity Act, is endorsed by the National Guard Association of the United States.

The bill also provides surviving spouses of retired military members or of those who died in the line of duty with space-available travel privileges. At this time, surviving spouses retain no space-available travel privileges after the death of their loved one.

“Members of the National Guard and Reserve serve shoulder-to-shoulder with active duty members in conflicts across the globe and they deserve to have equitable benefits for themselves and their families,” Begich said. “Travel is such a big part of life in Alaska, we need to make it as easy and economical as possible for these individuals and families.”

Begich’s second bill gives commissary and exchange privileges to former members of the Armed Forces who are retired or separated from service for physical disabilities, allowing the former service member to stay connected to the military community at large and ease any economic hardships faced as a result of discharge.

“This is an inequity that needs to be fixed so we can make sure those who have been injured or disabled are not penalized further by taking away benefits they had and justly deserve,” Begich said.

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