Bill would provide active duty Guard members with more benefits

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(Host) Several bills have been introduced at the Statehouse to provide additional benefits for members of the Vermont National Guard. Under one bill, the state would pay the premium on a $250,000 life insurance policy for all Guard members who have been activated in the past few years.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) The life insurance legislation is modeled after a similar proposal that’s been adopted in New Mexico. The bill won swift approval in New Mexico – two weeks after it was introduced it was signed into law by governor Bill Richardson.

St. Albans Representative Alan Parent is a co-sponsor of the life insurance legislation and he’s hoping that the Vermont Legislature will consider a number of proposals that would provide additional benefits for members of the Guard. Other bills reduce tax burdens and fees for Guard members.

Parent estimates that a little over a thousand Guard members would be affected by his bill at a total cost of roughly $300,000. He notes the proposal would not be an annual appropriation because the number of activated Guard members is expected to decline in the coming years:

(Parent) “It’s one of many ways that the state can help Guard families out. Several Guard members that I work with in my other job have come to me and said with all their fears in the war zone that their greatest fear is what’s going on with their family. So we felt that with that in mind we could probably do a little more for Guard families, active duty Guard families here in the state.”

(Kinzel) The commander of the Vermont National Guard, General Martha Rainville, says she appreciates the concerns expressed by lawmakers but she wants to look at a variety of proposals that are designed to help the Guard before she endorses any one of them:

(Rainville) “There’s a lot of interest in how to support the Guard, how to show the Guard that the state cares and wants to support them. The discussion, though, is also along the lines to how can we best put the money to use and we’ve talked with legislators about that as well. The insurance premium is an affordable premium, very affordable. Certainly any help for soldiers is welcome but we have some other ways also that we could use money.”

(Kinzel) Several of the Guard bills are being reviewed by the House General committee. Montpelier Representative Francis Brooks is the chairman of the panel:

(Brooks) “The reason for the bill is because everyone is concerned. Regardless of whether you are pro being in Iraq or not, everyone is quite aware of the significance of the deaths of our National Guard’s people.”

(Kinzel) Brooks expects that his committee will look at several of the Guard related bills and then decide which ones would have the most impact on members of the Guard.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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