Begich Bill Could Help Service Members With Travel Expenses
Begich plans to introduce legislation that he says will adequately compensate service members for travel costs they are paying out of pocket.
U.S Senator Mark Begich plans to introduce legislation that he says will adequately compensate National Guard & Reserve members for travel costs not covered.
Every month thousands of men and women in the Guard & Reserve travel to different areas across the state for mandatory trainings, and depending on where they are stationed they can be forced to fly and pay for costs out of pocket to get to their training location.
Current laws and regulations limit reimbursement to expenses for anything over 300 miles round-trip, a trip less than 300 miles is not reimbursed. Air travel is also not compensated when driving in not an option. Sen. Begich says this limitation brings a huge burden to thousands of service members located off the grid.
"They can’t get in car and drive down the street to training, sometimes you have a situation that requires fly time. My view is that’s our car in the sky and they should be reimbursed for it," he said.
Begich will introduce his proposed legislation known as The Travel Reimbursement for Inactive Duty Training Personnel (TRIP) Act.
"It seems we need to create some fairness here to make sure we don’t put additional burdens on families" he said.
The TRIP Act would have three major provisions; it would allow Guard & Reserve members to be reimbursed at the IRS business rate at 51 cents per mile for travel to trainings, and it would lower the current mileage rate from 300 miles to 100 miles round trip, allowing someone from Wasilla to be reimbursed for a drill duty in Anchorage. It would also allow for air travel reimbursement when there is no driving option.
"When we call upon on them for service, then we need to make sure there is fairness in how they’re compensated," he said.
Supporters of the bill including Family Programs for Alaska National Guard, say it could encourage more Alaskans to join the service.
"If you live in Quinhagak, and you drill in Anchorage they’re not going to join because they cant afford to come once a month, so it really does impact the retention and recruiting," Jan Myers, Director of Family Programs for Alaska National Guard said.
As for the cost of the bill Begich says that number is unknown because it would depend on how many service members request the reimbursement.