Retired Brig. Gen. J. Roy Robinson, the NGAUS president, shared some of the association’s legislative priorities during a special joint hearing of the Senate and House Veterans’ Affairs committees March 1.
The annual hearing focused on the concerns of veterans and military service organizations.
Representatives from other associations including the American Legion, the Paralyzed Veterans of America and the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America also testified.
All of the written testimony and video from the hearing is available here.
Robinson’s remarks begin at the 2:43:50 mark of the video.
His testimony focused on three NGAUS legislative priorities: zero-cost TRICARE medical coverage for members of the Guard and Reserve, strengthening service member civilian employment and benefits parity.
Robinson told the joint hearing that zero-cost TRICARE would dramatically increase readiness, solve turbulence moving on and off health plans and, ultimately, save money by eliminating duplicative contracts.
"It is imperative all service members have access to the health care needed to meet medical deployability requirements," he said.
"It is unthinkable that an estimated 15% of Guard members currently do not have health care coverage," the NGAUS president continued.
Robinson told lawmakers that Guard soldiers and airmen routinely mobilize for domestic missions without medical coverage, sometimes working alongside active-component personnel who are always covered.
"This is unacceptable," he charged.
Robinson added that he expects legislation will soon be introduced in the House and Senate to change that.
"The benefits of zero-cost TRICARE extend beyond medical readiness," he said. "As a key retention policy, this will help us keep a manned and ready force."
Zero-cost TRICARE also ranks as the No. 1 legislative priority for Gen. Daniel R. Hokanson, the chief of the National Guard Bureau.
Robinson additionally told lawmakers that the traditional format of "one weekend a month and two weeks a year" for Guard training is a thing of the past.
"In the wake of this new reality, we ask the committees support continued efforts to assist reserve-component service members and their employers," he said.
Robinson encouraged lawmakers to reintroduce and pass the Reserve Employers Comprehensive Relief and Uniform Incentives on Taxes — or RECRUIT — Act.
The measure would authorize an annual tax credit for small business employers who employ Guardsmen and Reservists.
Robinson also asked Congress to provide full benefits parity for the Guard through the Post 9/11 GI Bill.
"Unlike our active-component peers, Guardsmen serve in a variety of statuses and on missions that do not accrue GI Bill benefits," Robinson said.
"A day in uniform is a day in service to this country and it is past time this disparity is corrected," he finished.
The three priorities that Robinson's testimony addressed are only part of the NGAUS agenda this year.
Other NGAUS priorities include continuing equipment modernization and recapitalization, creating a Space National Guard, increasing access to mental health care suicide prevention and increasing military-construction funding.
— By John Goheen