Improving college affordability for National Guardsmen and reservists
Since the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan began, our nation has increasingly relied on the National Guard and reserve components to protect our nation at home and abroad. From responding to natural disasters and defending our democracy abroad to serving on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic in our communities, these servicemembers demonstrate a strong commitment to our nation. They deserve unencumbered access to financial aid resources, like their active-duty and veteran counterparts, to help them pursue a quality education.
As a Navy veteran, I understand the importance of providing educational opportunities to our men and women in uniform. My education was critical to supporting my service in the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps and my deployment to Iraq where I prosecuted nearly 100 terrorists.
We need to provide critical resources, including educational opportunities, to support our National Guardsmen and reservists.
According to the 2018 National Defense Strategy, “recruiting, developing, and retaining a high-quality military and civilian workforce is essential for warfighting success.” Unfortunately, some members of the National Guard and Reserve are unjustly shut out from claiming independent student status when applying for federal student aid through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
Currently, active duty servicemembers and veterans can claim this status, which allows them to access their education benefits without the assistance of a guardian. Unfortunately, if National Guard and Reserve members are not in contact with their parents or legal guardians, they could be blocked from similarly accessing their education benefits.
This bureaucratic hurdle prevents approximately 200,000 Guardsmen and reservists from accessing the entire amount of federal student aid they have earned.
That is why I introduced the bipartisan Improving College Affordability for our Guard and Reserve Act (H.R. 1536), which corrects this wrong by expanding the independent student criteria to include members of the National Guard and reserve components. I introduced this legislation with Reps. G.T. Thompson (R-Pa.), Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), David Trone (D-Md.) to help National Guard and reserve servicemembers access the benefits they deserve without obstruction, improve our nation’s mission readiness, maintain our competitive advantage, and enhance our national security.
During my service in the Navy, I had the honor to serve with the brave men and women of our Armed Forces, including many in the National Guard and reserves. If a servicemember is independent enough to serve in our military, then that individual has undoubtedly earned the right to claim independent status on their FAFSA application. The bipartisan Improving College Affordability for our Guard and Reserve Act will right this wrong and help our nation’s warfighters pursue a higher education and achieve their academic and professional goals.
Rep. Guy Reschenthaler represents Pennsylvania’s 14th District and formerly served in the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps (JAG) during the Iraq War. He serves on the House Rules and Appropriations committees.