WASHINGTON (March 1, 2018) — Thousands of National Guardsmen and Reservists may finally get a benefit they have long been denied, thanks to bipartisan legislation introduced in the House of Representatives this week.
The benefit is TRICARE Reserve Select. Congress created it in 2007 to provide part-time personnel with low-cost health care to improve readiness. It’s available to all Guardsmen and Reservists, except those who are full-time federal employees. They have to buy medical insurance through the more expensive Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.
Consequently, Guardsmen and Reservists who work for the federal government, including full-time dual-status military technicians, pay more for their coverage—sometimes thousands of dollars more.
Many then have to change family medical providers when they deploy and are covered by TRICARE, the military’s medical delivery system.
“Current law takes money from the pockets of thousands of men and women who wear the uniform simply because they work full-time for the federal government,” said retired Brig. Gen. Roy Robinson, the NGAUS president. “It also interrupts continuity of coverage for many of their families when they deploy.
“This is a quality-of-life issue,” he said. “It’s also a readiness issue. And it’s a recruiting and retention issue.”
The legislation sponsored by Rep. Trent Kelly, R-Miss., and Rep. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., would change that. H.R. 5121, would allow federal employees who serve in the Guard and Reserve to purchase TRICARE Reserve Select for their health-care coverage.
“The men and women in the National Guard and Reserves and their families deserve the same access to available health-care choices,” Kelly said in introducing the bill. “I look forward to working with my colleagues to advance this legislation and make a straight-forward and smart fix to an unfair bureaucratic restriction.”
Said Rosen, “I’m proud to work across the aisle and co-lead this legislation which will allow all service members in the reserve component, regardless of whether they are a federal employee, access to affordable, quality care under the TRICARE Reserve Select health program. Granting our service members the ability to choose their own health-care plans based on quality and cost of care is the very least we can do.”
Both Kelly and Rosen are members of the House Armed Services Committee.
Rep. Steve Palazzo, R-Miss., and Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., the co-chairs of the House National Guard and Reserve Components Caucus, have already signed on as original co-sponsors of the bill.
The legislation has a counterpart in the Senate, S.1086, introduced by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. The full Senate passed it last year, but the provision was not included in the fiscal 2018 National Defense Authorization Act.
“Rep. Kelly and Rep. Rosen’s legislation could give this the jolt it needs to win congressional approval this year,” Robinson said. “Our soldiers and airmen and their families greatly appreciate their leadership.”
Reporters, Editors & Producers: Retired Brig. Gen. Roy Robinson is available for interviews or to appear as a subject matter expert on defense issues related to the National Guard. Contact John Goheen at 202-408-5882 to schedule an interview or appearance.
About NGAUS: The association includes nearly 45,000 current or former Guard officers. It was created in 1878 to provide unified National Guard representation in Washington. In their first productive meeting after Reconstruction, militia officers from the North and South formed the association with the goal of obtaining better equipment and training by educating Congress on Guard requirements. Today, 140 years later, NGAUS has the same mission