National Guard & Reserve Comprehensive Military Benefits Guide
Some military benefits require a minimum time in uniform to access; others may take effect immediately. The benefits for members of the Guard and Reserve differ from active duty benefits for a number of reasons, including the fact that these jobs are essentially part-time during much of the year unless there is a deployment, field training, unit activation, etc.
- Pay and Allowances
- Education benefits
- VA Home loans
- Job Certification
National Guard and Reserve Component Pay and Allowances
There are special pay and allowance options that may be offered to you depending on your rank, your career field, and other variables. When you join the National Guard or the Reserve, you make a part-time commitment to military service. That means your time commitment isn’t the same as an active duty soldier, sailor, airman, Guardian, Marine, or Coast Guard member.
That also means your pay is part-time too. Naturally, when a member of the Guard or Reserve is deployed, activated, or otherwise called to active service, the pay changes to active duty, too. But while you serve under “normal conditions” during peacetime, your service is limited to weekend drills, active duty for training, and other activities as required.
If you need to know your state’s National Guard pay rates, you can check the official site of your state’s National Guard, or you can check by branch of service. For example, the Air National Guard official site features a pay calculator to help you estimate your National Guard earnings in advance. You will need to scroll down for the Pay Calculator.
Read more: Military Pay Charts
Guard and Reserve Education Benefits
The Montgomery GI Bill is an option offered at once to all new recruits. Today that program has been replaced by the Post 9/11 GI Bill education benefits, but some may still qualify to use the MGIB-SR:
You may qualify for the MGIB-SR if you’re a member of one of the following Reserve Components:
- Army Reserve
- Navy Reserve
- Air Force Reserve
- Marine Corps Reserve
- Coast Guard Reserve
- Army National Guard
- Air National Guard
>> Search for GI Bill-approved schools for National Guard and Reserve members with CollegeRecon!
The following must all be true for you to qualify:
- You have a 6-year service obligation in the Selected Service OR;
- You are an officer in the Selected Reserve serving 6 years (that is in addition to your initial service obligation) AND;
- You meet what the VA calls “ other requirements” which may include finishing initial active duty for training (IADT), and you are in good standing in a Selected Reserve Unit.
- Your obligation must have started after June 30, 1985, or for some types of training after September 30, 1990.
If you qualify for the GI Bill under any of these circumstances, you’ll want to learn more about your options to use these benefits–you can make an appointment with a college admissions counselor or contact the VA directly to learn more about what is possible.
In addition to the GI Bill, you may also qualify for Military Tuition Assistance from the Guard/Reserve, though not all branches of service offer the benefit to reserve component members. Where offered, you may find that 100% of your tuition expenses are covered for classwork totaling $250 or less per semester hour or the equivalent.
Read More: GI Bill Facts and Fiction
>> Search scholarships for National Guard and Reserve members with the CollegeRecon Scholarship Finder!
VA Home Loan Benefits for the National Guard and Reserve
VA home loans are offered to those who serve enough qualifying time in the Guard or Reserve (see below). There are major advantages to using a VA home loan as a Guard member or Reservist. One of these advantages is the no-money-down mortgage option. Another is the fact that you cannot be penalized for early payoff of the mortgage (including refinancing) and you cannot be required to purchase a home that is appraised lower than the asking price even if you have paid earnest money.
Who qualifies for a VA mortgage among members of the Reserve Components? Those who:
- Served for 90 days or more on active duty during a wartime period, OR
- Were discharged or released from active duty for a service-connected disability, OR
- Have 6 years of service in the Selected Reserve or National Guard, AND were honorably discharged, placed on the Standby list or transferred to Standby Reserve or Ready Reserve, or who continue in the Selected Reserve.
Read More: Best Practices for the VA Loan Process
>> Get your questions answered with a free VA Loan consultation!
TRICARE for National Guard & Reserve
Members of the Guard and Reserve may be eligible for TRICARE. You are required to create or maintain an account on the Defense Manpower Data Center or MilConnect to verify eligibility for TRICARE Guard/Reserve plans such as Line of Duty Care, Active and Inactive care, and options for those who are retiring.
Read More: TRICARE for Guard and Reserve Members
Furthermore, members of the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) may have the option to purchase dental coverage but typically do not qualify for other TRICARE benefits unless on active duty orders OR recently deactivated.
Read More: TRICARE: A Comprehensive Guide
Job Certification for the National Guard & Reserve
Depending on the branch of military service, the nature of your career field, and whether you serve in the National Guard or the Reserve, you may be offered job certification that is related to your military job. For example, the Army National Guard offers certification in areas that include:
- Certified Defense Financial Manager (CDFM)
- Six Sigma Black Belt (SSBB)
- CompTIA Security+
- Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
- Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP)
- Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB)
The nature of military service in the National Guard means that the state where you serve plays an important part in the nature of your benefits in this area. Not all states offer the same funding or certification options.
The situation is different for Reservists as these troops operate on the federal level rather than the state level. That means benefits for Reservists are more standardized. They also depend on the branch of service you are in; Air Force Reserve job training is more focused on mission-essential needs but you may find that the AF Reserve offers help with student loans and other civilian-based opportunities.
National Guard and Reserve Retirement Benefits
Those who serve enough “creditable years” of military service in the Guard or Reserve may become eligible to apply for a military pension and become military retirees.
Unlike those who serve on Active Duty for 20 years and get to start enjoying retirement pay immediately once they have “dropped papers,” members of the Guard and Reserve must wait until they reach a certain age to start receiving military retirement pay.
Read More: Retirement Pay for Guard and Reserve Members
Military retirement for National Guard and Reserve members has changed thanks to laws passed in the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act. The Act in part reduced the age those in the Ready Reserve can start receiving retirement pay.
Normally the retirement age is 60, but now, your retirement age is lowered by three months for every 90 days of active duty after 28 January 2008. Further changes in 2015 allow that 90-day period of active duty to stretch over two successive fiscal years.
Drawing retirement pay is NOT automatic. You must apply for it and be approved for it.
About the author
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter/editor for Air Force Television News and the Pentagon Channel. His freelance work includes contract work for Motorola, VALoans.com, and Credit Karma. He is co-founder of Dim Art House in Springfield, Illinois, and spends his non-writing time as an abstract painter, independent publisher, and occasional filmmaker.