NGAUS Touts Legislative Priorities in Special Congressional Testimony
The NGAUS president touted zero-cost TRICARE, benefits parity and a single document to record military service to replace the active-duty only DD-214 in testimony March 8 to a joint session of the Senate and House Veterans’ Affairs committees.
Retired Brig. Gen. J. Roy Robinson asked lawmakers to support the Healthcare for Our Troops Act (H.R. 3512) that would provide medical coverage, including preventive care, to every member of the National Guard and Reserves.
The bill is sponsored by Rep. Andy Kim, D-N.J., and Rep. Trent Kelly, R-Miss.
It is a top legislative priority of the association and Gen. Daniel R. Hokanson, the chief of the National Guard Bureau, who has estimated that 16% of Guardsmen currently have no health insurance. Guardsmen receive coverage when they deploy for overseas missions, but not for most domestic missions.
Robinson said he sees zero-cost TRICARE as a multiyear endeavor, like many of the association’s past legislative efforts.
He also asked for support in creating full parity for Guardsmen in relation to earning post-9/11 G.I. Bill benefits.
Guardsmen currently serve in a variety of statuses and missions that do not accrue the same benefits as their active-duty counterparts, and it is past time that this disparity is corrected, he said.
Fortunately, Congress is making progress in rectifying this issue. The Guard and Reserve GI Bill Parity Act (H.R. 1836), which passed in January, would correct most of the disparity. It would count all federal missions, as well as training days, toward benefit eligibility.
The Senate is considering a similar version of the legislation — the Guard, Reserve, and Active Duty Department of Veterans Affairs Educational Assistance Parity Act (S. 2644), sponsored by Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., the chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.
Finally, there needs to be a singular record of military personnel service across all components and all services, Robinson said.
Under the current construct, a Guardsman or Reservist will only receive a form DD-214 (Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty) if they serve more than 90 days on active duty orders. The NGB-22 documents Guard service.
Unfortunately, the DD-214 is considered the gold standard for documenting military service, Robinson said.
NGAUS supports the Record of Military Service for Members of the Armed Forces Act of 2021 (S. 1291, H.R. 7041), which would provide a comprehensive statement of service at appropriate intervals to every service member, regardless of component.
It is sponsored by Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., and Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., in the Senate and Rep. Mike Levin, D-Calif., Rep. Nancy Mace, R-S.C., Rep. Chris Pappas, D-N.H., and Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, in the House.