(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.), a key member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, today secured an agreement in the Senate Defense Appropriations bill which requires the Department of Defense to provide Congress with a plan for improving reintegration into civilian life for members of the National Guard and Reserve.

Under Murray’s amendment this plan must be presented to Congress within 30 days of enactment of the Defense bill which passed the Senate today by a vote of 97-0.

“The brave men and women of our National Guard and Reserves sacrifice side-by-side with our active duty personnel and they deserve the same benefits and help transitioning back to life at home,” Senator Murray said. “My amendment will require the Defense Department to find the best way to do what our country has promised: ease their return to family, to work, and to our communities.”

Only 35 percent of Guard and Reserve members participate in the Department of Defense’s Transition Assistance Program (TAP) upon return home, compared with 68 percent of separating active duty personnel. This lack of transition assistance has broad implications for the quality of life of returning Guard and Reserve members.

In May, the Government Accounting Office released a report which found:

“Both the method of delivery and the level of participation may vary, with participation rates highest for the mandatory pre-separation counseling. Because they demobilize within days after they return from overseas,generally members of the Reserves and National Guard may get similar information but not the time to participate fully in TAP. At demobilization they may complete their preseparation counseling forms as a group without individual attention; get 45 minutes of briefing on veterans’ benefits rather than a half-day; and receive no employment preparation.”

Read the GAO report on Transition Assistance Program

Murray, who has held roundtables with Iraq war veterans across the state of Washington, introduced her amendment in response to the needs she has heard directly from National Guard and Reserve members.

In a field hearing of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee which Senator Murray chaired in Seattle in August, she heard testimony from Guard and Reserve members who have faced difficulty transitioning back to their jobs, families and communities after returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Every day our Guard and Reserve members face challenges as they protect us overseas and it is our responsibility to lessen the challenges they face here at home,” Murray said. “By providing our Guard and Reserve with better access to the Transitional Assistance Program we can help give them the tools and resources they need to ease their entry back into their jobs, families and communities.”

Read Senator Murray’s amendment to the Defense Appropriations bill.