NGAUS Applauds Bill Offering Guardsmen Long-Denied Health Care Benefit

WASHINGTON (Jan. 28, 2019) — Tens of thousands of National Guardsmen and Reservists finally may get a benefit they have long been denied, thanks to bipartisan legislation introduced this month in Congress.

The benefit is TRICARE Reserve Select, a partially Pentagon-subsidized medical plan for traditional members of the Guard and Reserve.

Congress created TRS in 2007 to provide part-time service members with low-cost health care.  It’s available to all Guardsmen and Reservists, except those who work full time for the federal government. They have to buy their coverage through the more expensive Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.

Consequently, Guardsmen and Reservists who work for the federal government, including dual-status military technicians, pay more for their coverage — sometimes thousands of dollars more a year.

Many then have to change family doctors when they mobilize and they and their families are eligible for a fully subsidized TRICARE program.

“Current law takes money from the pockets of thousands of men and women who wear the uniform simply because they work in civilian life for the federal government,” said retired Brig. Gen. J. Roy Robinson, the NGAUS president. “It also interrupts continuity of coverage for many of their families when they mobilize.

“This is a readiness issue,” he said. “It’s also a quality-of-life issue. And it’s a recruiting and retention issue.”

The legislation sponsored by Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., in the Senate and Rep. John Garamendi, D-Calif., and Rep. Trent Kelly, R-Miss., in the House  would change that.

The Tricare Reserve Improvement Act, S.164 in the Senate and H.R.613 in the House, would allow federal employees who serve in the Guard and Reserve to purchase TRS for their health care coverage.

“Our National Guardsmen deserve affordable health care options,” Daines said. “Senseless laws shouldn’t stand in the way of that. It’s time we provide our Guardsmen and Reservists with the care they need and this bill does just that.”

Said Manchin, “As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I have spent my career fighting to make sure Veterans can get the care they have earned. In West Virginia, we believe in taking care of those who serve us, including those who serve in the reserve component as federal employees. I look forward to working to pass this common-sense legislation.”

The legislation is co-sponsored in the Senate by John Boozman, R-Ark.; Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.; Mike Crapo, R-Idaho; John Hoeven, R-N.D.; Jerry Moran, R-Kan.; Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis.; Doug Jones, D-Ala.; Jacky Rosen, D-Nev.; Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H.; and Jon Tester, D-Mont.