WASHINGTON (April 15, 2020) — National Guardsmen returning from overseas missions receive transitional TRICARE medical coverage for six months to help cope with possible post-deployment health issues.
The voice of more than 40,000 Guard officers is urging the Defense Department to provide the same to Guard soldiers and airmen once they begin demobilizing from the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Retired Brig. Gen. J. Roy Robinson, the NGAUS president, has written Matthew P. Donovan, the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, asking the Pentagon for a “preemptive determination” to make transitional TRICARE available to Guardsmen once they leave Title 32 active duty.
“Federal law is clear in its intent to provide all service members with transitional medical coverage after they serve during a war or national emergency,” he said. “The problem is, Guard soldiers and airmen are mobilized under language — section 502(f) of Title 32 — that does not specifically mention such coverage.
“We are asking DoD to look beyond this particular provision, follow the intent of Congress and make the determination to support the health of these troops, not just when they are on duty, but also in the weeks that follow. This is critical given the unknowns of this virus.”
Robinson said the issue highlights the need for Congress to revise 502(f).
“Putting our soldiers and airmen on federally funded orders that keep them under the control of governors is best the way for the Guard to respond to a regional or national emergency,” he said. “But 502(f) has long been flawed. The Pentagon doesn’t like to use it out of fear of not being reimbursed in the timely manner by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and it doesn’t spell out adequate protections for the troops.”
NGAUS has previously advocated for the use of Title 32 orders. The association also lobbied the president to extend those orders beyond 30 days in order to provide Guardsmen with TRICARE coverage.
More than 30,000 Guardsmen are on duty nationwide to help state and local authorities respond to the outbreak.
Robinson’s April 13 letter is available here.
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Reporters, Editors & Producers: Retired Brig. Gen. Roy Robinson is available for interviews or to appear as a subject matter expert on issues related to the National Guard. Contact John Goheen at 202-408-5882 to schedule an interview or appearance.
About NGAUS: The association includes more than 40,000 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, 142 years later, NGAUS has the same mission.