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National Guard Gets Benefits

This information is provided courtesy of 28th District State Sen. Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald, who represents Giles and five other counties.

Reemployment protections to Tennessee National Guard -- Legislation protecting civilian reemployment rights for Tennessee National Guard members upon completion of service in active duty was approved during the 2021 session, effective July 1.

Members of the National Guard returning from State Active Duty will have the same right to reemployment afforded service members called to federal active service, protecting them from discrimination in the workplace based on military service.

Tennessee’s National Guard servicemen and women have been on front lines of the state’s COVID-19 response for the past year, providing a critical service.

This legislation will support their efforts and serve as a recruitment tool to ensure the very best continue to serve in the Tennessee National Guard.

STRONG Act / Tennessee National Guard – Legislation which expands eligibility for tuition reimbursement for members of the Tennessee National Guard under Tennessee’s Support, Training, and Renewing Opportunity for National Guardsmen (STRONG) Act was also approved.

The General Assembly passed the original STRONG Act in 2017. That legislation provided reimbursement to an educational institution in the amount equal to 100% of maximum resident undergraduate in-state tuition.

This is a great benefit, but the 2021 amendment to the STRONG Act has made it even better. It provides eligible service members with tuition reimbursement for up to 120 hours for a bachelor’s degree, 40 hours for a master’s degree and 24 hours for a vocational or technical program.

The legislation also reimburses for up to 30 additional hours for any service member enrolled in ROTC or other officer-producing programs while pursuing a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree.

Students in officer-producing programs are required to take certain courses, which can be outside the requirements of their chosen degree. ROTC students could hit the credit hour cap before obtaining their degree and losing their eligibility for additional reimbursement.

Finally, the new law extends the program four more years until June 30, 2025. The STRONG Act has boosted recruitment of service members in the National Guard since its enactment in 2017.

This legislation aims to retain and renew more service members by offering additional education benefits.

Helping Heroes Grant -- State lawmakers approved legislation to aid Tennessee veterans by expanding eligibility for the Helping Heroes Grant.

Previously, veterans who have earned either the Global War on Terrorism medal on or after September 11, 2001; the Iraq campaign medal; or the Afghanistan campaign medal were awarded aid through the program.

The new law adds eligibility for any veteran who has earned a service expeditionary medal identified by rules and regulations created by the Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation.

100% Service-Connected Disabled / State Park Fees -- A new law increased the state park camping fees discount available to veterans from 50% to 100% for Tennessee residents who have a 100% service-connected permanent disability as determined by the VA.

The legislation applies to overnight lodging fees at state parks. Discounts are subject to availability and only apply to reservations made within 30 days of the intended stay.

Disabled Veterans / State Employee / Sick Leave – State employees, who are veterans with a service-connected disability of 30% or more, can receive 36 hours of sick leave each year to attend appointments related to that disability.

The intent is that a disabled veteran who is a state employee should not have to use sick leave or vacation time to make Veterans Administration (VA) appointments.

Sen. Hensley may be reached at 425 Rep. John Lewis Way N., Suite 742, Nashville, Tenn., 37243, by calling 615-741-3100 or toll free 1-800-449-8366 ext. 13100, or fax 615-253-0231. His district address is 855 Summertown Highway, Hohenwald Tenn., 38462, telephone is 931-796-2018, cell phone is 931-212-8823, and E-Mail is: sen.joey.hensley@capitol.tn.gov

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This information is from 28th District State Sen. Joey Hensley, M.D., R-Hohenwald, who represents Giles and five other area counties. The 112th General Assembly has adjourned for 2022, and it was a v

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