Protect GI Bill benefits for reservists

Dear Legion Family Members and Friends,

Bryan Lowman served his nation with honor and made sacrifices to help keep America safe, just like every man and woman who has worn the uniform. But our nation has failed Capt. Lowman and tens of thousands of his fellow reservists.

In 2010, Lowman was deployed to Afghanistan in a detachment with the North Carolina National Guard. During the deployment, he became severely ill with typhoid fever, lapsed into a coma and underwent multiple emergency surgeries over the course of a year in Afghanistan, Germany and at Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

After his long recovery, Lowman aimed to pursue a college degree. Based upon his active-duty time on his DD214, Lowman was supposed to be entitled to 90 percent of his post 9/11 GI Bill benefits.

"I applied for the GI Bill prior to the start of the fall 2016 semester at Clemson University,” Lowman said. “After an initial delay, VA downgraded my rating to 40 percent. When I called the GI Bill hotline, they told me that my active-duty time was not eligible to get the GI Bill benefits.”

What changed? After Lowman fought for our country and while he was battling for his life at Walter Reed, the government turned its back. Because of a loophole, his activation status was changed to 12301(h) medical orders, which shred his benefits on the basis that he did not complete his deployment.

That’s wrong and should be corrected immediately.

Unfortunately, Lowman’s story is not unique. Since 2007, approximately 20,000 reservists — others who were wounded or injured in combat — have faced similar issues.

During The American Legion’s congressional testimony coming up in a few weeks, I will share our organization’s concern with this practice. It is abhorrent. And Congress and VA must work to reverse this policy that unfairly penalizes our reservists.

Carry the legacy forward.