On Thursday, the House Committee on Defense and Veterans’ Affairs in Texas heard testimony regarding a bill that would provide death benefits to members of the Texas State Guard.
The Bishop Evans Act, which is another name for House Bill 90, would expand worker compensation and death benefits for members of the Texas military who are currently serving on active duty. This would give these service members the same access as officers of other military statuses who are killed in the line of duty.
The Texas Army National Guard
The bill was introduced by state Representative Jared Patterson, a Republican from Frisco. It is a reaction to the passing of Specialist Evans, a member of the Texas Army National Guard, who passed away in 2017 after jumping into the Rio Grande to save two immigrants.
After he passed away, his family did not receive any financial compensation, which is something that is typically provided to the families of other state employees who pass away while on active duty.
“This legislation will give guardsmen and their families benefits that they deserve,” Patterson said. “We owe a great deal to those who protect and serve our nation and state exactly like Sgt. Bishop Evans did..”
The Texas State Guard is a volunteer organization that is frequently called upon during severe weather events like hurricanes and tornadoes. Operation Lone Star, the military mission along the Texas-Mexico border to combat illegal immigration and drug smuggling, has requested up to 10,000 military personnel to its southern border since its launch in March 2021.
OLS has required some people to stay for months without a known end date to the mission, in contrast to state guards who frequently deploy for a few weeks at a time.
The Bishop Evans Act would give guard members’ families $500,000 if they died while performing their duty. Additionally, the bill extends worker’s compensation to cover all of their deployment, including the time spent traveling to and from work.
By Friday, the bill had gained the support of more than 50 house members from both parties. House Speaker Dade Phelan designated the bill as a top chamber priority on Monday. State Sen. Joan Huffman, a Republican from Houston, filed a companion bill in the Senate that is identical to this one.
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Speaking on behalf of the Texas Veterans of Foreign Wars, Mitch Fuller said that since national military personnel is already guaranteed death benefits in the event of a line-of-duty death, it makes the most sense to extend those benefits to volunteer guard members as well.
As close as you can get to being deployed in a hostile environment abroad, he said, is what state guard members are doing at the border.
“The state guard has stepped up time and time and time again to execute the missions on behalf of the people of Texas and their benefits need to be way closer to those who serve (in national branches),” Fuller said. “We want to ensure that those wearing the uniform regardless of what status that they’re in, (be it) active duty or state active duty, have everything that they need.”
On Thursday, the committee decided not to take action on the bill. Before bringing it up for a vote before the entire house, the committee needs to give it a majority vote first.
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