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Wenstrup, Panetta Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Address Ready Reserve Critical Specialty Shortages

WASHINGTON – Today, Congressmen Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio) and Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.) introduced the bipartisan Patriot Retention Act. The legislation would provide more flexibility to the Ready Reserve to fill critical specialty positions with experienced servicemembers facing retirement from active duty. Specifically, the legislation allows a Service Secretary to select highly trained, retiring active duty servicemembers who possess a skill in which the Ready Reserve has a critical shortage of personnel to serve while concurrently receiving pay for their Reserve duties and their already-earned pension.

“In order to remain the greatest fighting force in the world, our military needs to address shortages in specialty MOSs within our Ready Reserves. Those shortages are not a result of a lack of funding or a shortage of existing specialists, but rather due to financial disincentives for servicemembers facing retirement,” said Congressman Wenstrup. “Our bipartisan, commonsense bill would correct those issues and help our Ready Reserves utilize the tremendous asset this is the supremely-trained American warfighter.”

“Servicemembers shouldn’t have to sacrifice their military pension benefits in order to serve longer in the reserves,” said Congressman Jimmy Panetta. “The Patriot Retention Act would allow those members to continue serving in the Ready Reserves without losing their previously earned benefits. This bipartisan, commonsense bill would ensure that those who have been trained and have a specialty expertise, like doctors, are provided with the appropriate benefits so that they are incentivized to continue serving the nation.”

“ROA thanks Rep. Brad Wenstrup and Rep. Jimmy Panetta for introducing the bipartisan Patriot Retention Act and appreciate Members of Congress who offer inventive solutions to accessing military retirees who possess specialized skills in critically-manned career fields.  By incentivizing and removing financial penalties for highly-skilled retired servicemembers called back to Active Duty, the military can readily use their knowledge and experience for mission accomplishment and to maintain readiness.  Retired military members have earned their retirement pay and should not be penalized for returning to active duty when called upon by their country,” said retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Jeffrey E. Phillips, ROA’s executive director.

Background: Currently, the Ready Reserve is facing a significant shortage in dozens of critical wartime specialty positions, such as General Surgeons, Airdrop Systems Technicians, and Light Armored Reconnaissance Unit Leaders, which negatively affects our ability to meet combat-ready mission requirements. The Department of Defense invests heavily in the education and training of special skills personnel. Upon reaching eligibility for retirement, if a qualified active duty servicemember in a critical specialty would like to continue their service by joining a Reserve capacity, he or she would be uniquely suited to fill the positions that are needed most.

Unfortunately, current law imposes restrictions on a retiree’s ability to simultaneously collect distributions from their already-earned pension and receive pay for Reserve service, disincentivizing qualified personnel from serving in the Ready Reserve upon retirement from active duty. Under current law, it may make the most sense for retirees to not enter the Ready Reserve and only collect retirement pay, regardless of his or her desire to continue to serve.

The bill: To address this problem and provide the Armed Forces with an additional tool to fill critical shortages, the bill would provide a pathway for qualified, retiring specialists to be placed into the Ready Reserve without financial disincentives. However, there are also necessary guardrails to ensure the policy is targeted. Specifically, a Service Secretary must first find that an active day servicemember with more than 20 years of creditable, Active Duty service possesses a skill in which the Ready Reserve has a critical shortage. If that’s the case, then that servicemember will be able to serve without forfeiting portions of their pension or Reserve pay. Consistent with current Reserve retirement rules, a member serving under this authority would not be eligible for an additional pension from service in the Ready Reserve until age 60 and/or full separation.