Legislation prefiled for the 2020 session would expand survivor and education benefits to Alabama National Guard members serving on state active duty, such as responding to tornadoes or other natural disasters.

“Senate Bill 8 seeks to make state active duty benefits consistent with Title 32 benefits,” said a statement from Alabama National Guard spokesman Lt. Col. Timothy Alexander.

Title 32 benefits apply for federal active duty missions funded by the federal government after approval from the president.

“The bill is designed to address the inequities presently existing when Alabama National Guard service members are in state active duty status,” the statement said.

If a guardsman is killed on state active duty now, his or her family is entitled to $10,000 from the state. The legislation increases that amount to $100,000.

Bill sponsor Sen. Tom Whatley, R-Auburn, said it's a measure to protect soldiers’ families, “just in case.”

“This benefit has never been paid out and I hope it never will be,” Whatley said. Whatley has served in both the Alabama Army National Guard and the United States Army Reserves.

According to the Guard, other provisions of the bill:

• Make benefits available for all types of State Active Duty status;

• Make education benefits available for a service member of their dependents in the event of injury/death;

• Make clear the provisions of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act are applicable to State Active Duty status.

“All of these proposed benefits provide parity in the case of a service member dying/becoming disabled to those benefits available for a service member while in Title 32/drill federal status,” the statement from the Guard said.

The 2020 legislative session begins Feb. 4.

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