Sen. Chris Coons, D-Delaware, sent a letter Aug. 2 to the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, urging them to support early retirement benefits for members of the National Guard and Reserve forces who deploy on certain preplanned missions overseas under what’s known as “12304b” authority.

Since this authority was created, more than 18,000 Guardsmen, including members of the Delaware National Guard, have deployed in support of critical missions around the world. Yet, these service members don’t receive the same benefits as active duty service members deployed on the same missions.

Last Congress, Coons introduced bipartisan legislation, the National Guard and Reserves Benefits Parity Act, which aimed to close this benefits gap. Two of the bill’s provisions passed into law in the fiscal 2019 defense authorization bill, ensuring that guardsmen and reservists can receive a monthly allowance while deployed under this authority and are protected from a reduction in pay if they are federal civilian employees. The final provision from the National Guard and Reserves Benefits Parity Act — reducing the age at which guardsmen and reservists can receive retirement pay by three months for every 90 days they are deployed under this authority — is currently included in the fiscal 2020 defense authorization bill that recently passed the House of Representatives. Coons led a bipartisan group of colleagues in sending a letter to the senators negotiating the final fiscal 2020 defense authorization bill, urging them to retain this provision in the final legislation.

Joining Coons in sending the letter are Sens. Shelley Moore Capito, R-West Virginia; Tina Smith, D-Minnesota; Mike Crapo, R-Idaho; Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota; John Hoeven. R-North Dakota; Jon Tester, D-Montana; Susan Collins, R-Maine; and Maggie Hassan, D-New Hampshire.

The full text of the letter is available at bit.ly/2MIyHdL.