The National Guard functions as a reserve component of the Army. Like reservists, members of the National Guard maintain largely civilian lives except during mandatory drills. Drills are training periods that occur every month for one weekend and an annual two-week training exercise. National Guard soldiers are also subject to active-duty orders in emergencies or for military needs. As members and veterans of the U.S. military, National Guard personnel are eligible for a variety of VA benefits.
Members of the National Guard are part of the Selected Reserve, which includes the reserve components of all the military services. According to the VA, National Guard soldiers are entitled to GI Bill benefits under the Montgomery GI Bill-Selected Reserve (MGIB-SR) program. As of November 2009, the MGIB-SR grants 36 months of financial assistance to help cover the cost of attending college. Typically, eligibility for the program ends upon leaving the National Guard. However, the length of eligibility is increased if you are ordered to active duty.
Members of the National Guard qualify for home loan benefits after six years of documented service. Like all active-duty members, reservists and veterans, a current or former member of the National Guard must apply for a certificate of eligibility from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The certificate of eligibility is one of the key documents to allow a member of the National Guard to buy a home under VA Home Loan Guaranty Service. This program insures your mortgage with your lender in case you are unable to make regularly scheduled mortgage payments. The mortgage program also grants you the opportunity to refinance an existing VA mortgage to reduce the interest rate on your home loan under the Interest Rate Reduction Refinancing Loan (IRRRL).
National Guard soldiers also have access to life insurance through the Veterans Group Life Insurance (VGLI) program. VGLI is available for soldiers in the National Guard called to duty for more than 31 days and insured under the active-duty counterpart called the Servicemembers Group Life Insurance (SGLI). Similar to SGLI, VGLI provides life insurance for veterans up to $400,000. However, veteran members of the National Guard have the option of selecting smaller amounts of life insurance coverage. According to the VA, VGLI does not have extra features common in private insurance policies such as dividend payments, cash value or loan features.
Under certain conditions, members of the National Guard are eligible for VA burial benefits. As of July 2010, servicemembers of the National Guard who pass away while activated for duty, eligible for retirement, while under medical care at a hospital or otherwise become disabled while on active duty are eligible for VA burial benefits. Burial benefits include interment at a national cemetery, a marble headstone and a flag to drape on the casket. Surviving family members may also request a Presidential Memorial Certificate signed by the sitting president of the United States commemorating the military service of a National Guard veteran.