New bipartisan bill gives equal hazard duty incentive pay to Guard and reserve members

WASHINGTON — Closing pay gaps is not usually a bipartisan effort in the capital, but a bipartisan effort in both chambers of Congress could end a major pay disparity between non-active-duty and active-duty military.

Soldiers who perform tasks such as parachute jumps, explosives demolition and toxic fuels handling are eligible for hazardous duty incentive pay. HDIP is an important monthly bonus for service members on dangerous assignments and acts as a form of incentive pay. However, National Guard and reserve members only receive a fraction of the HDIP of their active duty counterparts.

“We used to not deploy much,” said J.C. Cardinale, who handles personnel matters at the National Guard Association of the United States. “So they had these pay disparities that favor the active duty over the National Guard and reserve.”

Cardinale was in the Guard for many years and is currently a major in the reserves.

“We have a lot of young soldiers and airmen who are doing really dangerous tasks, some of which have really high injury rates,” he said.

“And so to have a disparity where they’re only getting $12 that month in what should be $150 worth of hazard duty pay – it’s really important.”

Thousands of National Guard and reserve members in North Dakota stand to benefit from closing the gap, as Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) explained:

“One thing about the National Guard Reserve is they all have natural advocates, because they live in every community in every state in the country,” said Cramer.

“If you’re a guard member in North Dakota, say you’re skydiving in your drills to be prepared for combat. You can get paid an extra $12 for a drill period. But if you’re active military doing the same exercises, you get paid $150 hazard pay.  That inequality is, in my view, an injustice.”

Cramer is an original sponsor of the Senate version of the bill, introducing it last week with fellow senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL).

He said the bill would ideally become a part of the National Defense Authorization Act and future military appropriations bills.