November 10, 2011

Wyden Soft Landing Bill Will Ease Burden of Returning National Guard and Reserve Members

Washington, D.C. –It is important to remember -- especially on Veterans Day -- that National Guard and Reserve members have spent the last 10 years fighting the same wars as active duty soldiers. Yet when they return home from combat, they are treated strikingly different than active-duty servicemembers -- often being thrown back into civilian life after only a few days without the tools and services they need to reintegrate successfully.

As part of U.S. Senator Ron Wyden’s longstanding push to ease the reintegration of these brave servicemembers, he has introduced legislation to ease them back into civilian life. Known as “Soft Landing” Wyden’s bill proposes a 45-day grace period for returning National Guard and Reservists – giving them access to reintegration services, allow them to collect pay and make sure that they are able to transition from combat to civilian life.

“Too many guard and reserve members have gone from the front lines to the unemployment lines. If they are going to navigate their way back into civilian life then they are going to need a transition period that lasts more than a few days,” Wyden said. “Active duty soldiers, by contrast, return home to military jobs and access to services and healthcare. As a result we’ve seen too many of these brave guard and reserve members struggle to reenter their lives. This legislation gives them the time they need to resume their lives and the high level of care that they would expect from a country they volunteered to defend.”

The National Guard and Reserve Soft Landing Reintegration Act of 2011 will allow Guard and Reserve members returning from combat to maintain levels of service and pay available to active-duty servicemembers. They will be given job search assistance and since National Guard and Reserve suffer from the same combat stress related issues as active-duty soldiers including the debilitating effects and stigma of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, this bill gives them time to access mental health services that are already available.

Wyden’s soft landing legislation is one part of his promise to take care of troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, including National Guard and Reserve servicemembers. In May of 2010, Wyden and Representative Kurt Schrader uncovered evidence that healthcare services for servicemembers returning to Joint Base Lewis McChord followed a dual track that treated Oregon Guard and Reservists worse than active-duty soldiers resulting in an investigation into practices of Army bureaucrats overturning medical decisions by doctors to “clear out” the Guard and Reservists to make room for a returning active-duty unit. Wyden also spearheaded the successful effort to fix a flawed system denying severely wounded Guard and Reservists the transitional healthcare they were owed.