The Reserve Officers Association is recommending a package of incentives to encourage companies to hire National Guard and Reserve members, including money for health benefits, tax incentives and cash stipends when employees deploy.
The recommendations came in a March 14 statement for the record provided to the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, which is looking into complaints of employer discrimination against reservists.
ROA suggests three incentives for employers:
Better advance warning of deployments, to give both employees and employers more time to plan. “Employer care plans should be developed that will assist with mitigation strategies for dealing with the civilian workload during the absence of the service member-employee, and lay out how the employer and employee would remain in contact throughout the deployment,” the ROA statement says.
Tax credits or a direct subsidy that would take effect at the beginning of mobilization, offsetting the costs of hiring or training replacements. Employers, especially small businesses, do not like end-of-the-year tax deductions or credits because they often come long after the expenses.
Employers should be able to subsidize or fully pay for an employee to enroll in Tricare, which would be less expensive for an employer than providing private-sector health coverage. An alternative would be for the Defense Department to provide cash stipends to the employer, equal to the government’s share of providing Tricare. The Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States made a similar suggest to the House Veterans’ Affairs subcommittee on equal opportunity.
ROA also said the government could do more to help reservists be better candidates for civilian jobs by improving the Montgomery GI Bill for the Selected Reserve.
The group recommends increasing the current $356 maximum monthly benefit, a tiny amount compared to the full tuition plus living stipend available under the Post-9/11 GI Bill. They also recommend modifying the service requirement so that rather than needing six years in the Selected Reserve to be eligible, a member could serve four years in the Selected Reserve and four in the non-drilling Individual Ready Reserve.
Changes are needed, in part, because it is becoming more difficult for members to serve a full career in the Reserves in a paid status for the entire time, the ROA statement says, warning that a reduction in paid billets and base closing and realignment will make careers more complicated.