Washington, D.C. – Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) is backing a new bill to improve health care coverage for members of the National Guard and Reserves and their families. Reid is co-sponsoring a measure to make all Guard and Reserve members eligible for TRICARE, the military health care system.
“Right now, about 40-percent of our Guard and Reserve members don’t have any health care coverage for themselves or their families,” said Reid. “That affects our troop readiness and our national security. A reservist who is training for dangerous deployment shouldn’t be distracted by worries about whether a sick child will be able to see a doctor.”
The military benefits system, which includes TRICARE, was designed years ago for full-time enlisted personnel and officers. In those days, National Guard and Reserve members weren’t expected to need military benefits because they were expected to have benefits through their full-time jobs.
However, in the past decade the role of the Guard and Reserves has changed dramatically. Today, almost half the forces in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom are Guard or Reserve members. By March, 70-percent of Nevada National Guard members will be deployed.
“It’s true that service in the Guard and Reserve is a part time obligation, but it’s not like any other part-time job,” said Reid. “When the Guard and Reserves call, members must put their duty above everything else. That means taking time off from their regular jobs and leaving their families for long periods of time. We expect great sacrifices from our Guard and Reserve members, and the least we can do is make sure they and their families will get decent medical care.”
The bill, S. 337, is sponsored by Rep. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) and has a bipartisan group of co-sponsors in the Senate. It would also update the retirement system so Guard and Reserve members could get retired pay and retiree health benefits at age 55 instead of 60.