01.16.19

Bipartisan Senators Introduce Tricare Reserve Improvement Act National Guardsmen, Reservists

U.S. SENATE – A bipartisan coalition led by U.S. Senators Steve Daines (MT) and Joe Manchin (WV) today introduced the Tricare Reserve Improvement Act, which extends eligibility to all National Guardsmen and Reservists, regardless of their civilian occupation.

Under current law federal employees who serve in the National Guard or Armed Forces Reserve are prohibited from participating in Tricare Reserve Select (TRS).  This disparity creates a financial incentive for transitioning service members to take their skillset and credentials away from the federal government, and penalizes those who choose to serve their country in a civilian capacity. It also limits the effectiveness of TRS as a recruiting tool within the public sector. 

“Our National Guardsmen deserve affordable healthcare options. 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,” Senator Steve Daines (MT) said. 

I am proud to introduce this bipartisan bill that will make sure that the brave men and women serving in the National Guard and Armed Forces Reserve get the healthcare they deserve. 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 commonsense legislation,” Senator Joe Manchin (WV) said 

“I helped lead this bipartisan effort in the House and am proud to now work with my colleagues in the Senate to expand access to affordable health care for our servicemembers. Our brave men and women and uniform sacrifice so much to defend our freedoms. This bill takes important steps to allow all servicemembers in the reserve component, regardless of whether they are a federal employee, access affordable, quality care under the TRICARE Reserve Select health program, allowing them to choose their own health care plans based on quality and cost of care," Senator Jacky Rosen (NV) said. 

“The women and men who serve in the reserves perform vital service to our nation often while also holding down other jobs in their communities.  Reservists whose other employment is in the federal government have answered dual calls to public service, yet do not have the option of using TRICARE, which may be a more affordable health care option, as other reservists do.  This commonsense, bipartisan measure will allow reservists the ability to choose the health care plan that works best for them and their families, which they have earned for their service,” Senator Mike Crapo (ID) said.

“Wherever and whenever they are called to serve, our North Dakota National Guard members do a tremendous job representing our state. This Congress, I am again cosponsoring legislation that would increase health care options for National Guard or Reserve service members who are also federal employees, by ensuring they also have access to the TRICARE Reserve Select program as an option for their health care coverage. Additional choices will help them pick the right health care coverage for them and their families,” Senator John Hoeven (ND) said.

“Guardsmen and Reservists should not be forced to pay more for health insurance because they choose to work for the federal government rather than in the private sector. The Tricare Reserve Select program has proven to be a valuable recruiting and retention tool for the Guard and Reserve for years. Current law punishes those who choose to also serve their government in a civilian capacity.  It is only fair that we allow anyone who joins the Guard or Reserve to access their health insurance plan. These service members and their families sacrifice on behalf of all of us. They have earned these benefits and I am proud to support this bipartisan legislation to ensure that they get them,” Senator Doug Jones (AL) said. 

“This is a common sense solution. By allowing National Guardsmen and Reservists to use TRS even when they have access to federal health insurance because they are federal employees in their civilian employment, we can make more affordable coverage available to them, improve readiness and reduce federal cost. I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting our Guardsmen and Reservists by implementing this easy fix,” U.S. Senator John Boozman (AR) said.

“Technicians working for the National Guard and Reserve deserve to access health care without disruption,” said Tester, Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “Reservists must be able to support themselves and their families whether they are working as a civilian, called up to active duty, or transitioning between the two. Our bill does right by service members and ensures their families have the benefits they earned,” Senator Jon Tester (MT) said.

“Members of our nation’s National Guard and Reserves have sacrificed for this country and stand ready to serve at all times. I’m proud to support legislation that would provide a choice in healthcare coverage for servicemembers who also work in the federal government, making certain their decision to enter both military and public service does not limit their access to benefits they have earned. The brave men and women who honorably serve our country should never be denied these benefits, and I will continue to work to make certain they have the flexibility to choose the healthcare plan best for them,” Senator Jerry Moran (KS) said 

“This bipartisan bill is a no-brainer. Regardless of their civilian occupation, members of our National Guard and Reserve deserve the same access to quality healthcare as their fellow service members. I’m proud to help give what is due to those who sacrifice so much for our country,” Senator Shelley Moore Capito (WV) said.

Statements of Support:

Retired Brig. Gen. Roy Robinson, NGAUS president: “Current law denies a valuable benefit to thousands of Guardsmen and Reservist. This important legislation would help them save thousands of dollars a year in health care premiums while ensuring their families have continuity of care when they are deployed. Our soldiers and airmen greatly appreciate the leadership by Senator Daines and Senator Manchin as well as Congressman Kelly and Congressman Garamendi in the House of Representatives.” 

Sgt Maj (Ret) Frank Yoakum, Executive Director, EANGUS: “TRICARE Reserve Select continues to be a top priority for our Association. Continuity of health care is a persistent complaint and we applaud Congress for their willingness to remove this impediment to service for National Guard members and their families.”

MG Matthew Quinn, Adjutant General, Montana National Guard: “Tricare is a valuable resource for our military families, who may be called upon to serve at a moment’s notice.  Equitable access to care helps the National Guard recruit and retain top talent.  I’m pleased to see Montana’s delegation leading this bipartisan effort in the U.S. Congress to keep our citizen-soldiers and their families first.”

William Frank, President, Enlisted Association of the National Guard for Montana: "The Enlisted Association of the National Guard for Montana has long supported all Federal employees serving in the National Guard the ability to participate in the Tricare Reserve Select program. We thank these legislators, in particular Senator Daines, for working on this important issue."

Background: 

Tricare Reserve Select (TRS) is a premium-based health insurance plan for National Guard and Armed Forces Reserve service members that provides a comparable level of care as their active duty counterparts, at an affordable cost.  The military services leverage TRS as an incentive to recruit new service members, as well as retain others who are leaving active duty with valuable, high-demand skillsets—such as aircraft maintenance.  These service members are top candidates for the National Guard’s dual-status technician program, which allows an individual to continue serving an on a part-time basis, and help maintain military aircraft as a federal civilian.

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