Wes Hickman (202 224-5972) and Kevin Bishop (864 250-1417)
- U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today announced the Senate unanimously approved his plan to improve the healthcare benefits of Guard and Reserve members by modernizing their coverage under TRICARE, the military health program. Graham submitted his proposal as an amendment to the supplemental appropriations bill for funding ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Graham is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and is the only Senator who is a member of the Reserves.
“I am pleased that my colleagues have come together in a bipartisan fashion to improve healthcare for the brave men and women who valiantly serve our country in the Guard and Reserves,” said Graham. “The sacrifice they make to defend our freedom deserves to be rewarded. This is an extremely significant step toward repaying their efforts; however, there is more to be done and more to come.”
Under current law, members of the Guard and Reserve and their families can only enroll in TRICARE when called to active duty.
The Graham provision:
- Allows unemployed reservists and guardsmen and those that are not eligible for health insurance from their employers to enroll fulltime in TRICARE;
- Provides TRICARE coverage to all guardsmen and reservists once they receive orders to deploy, currently they don’t receive their benefits until they actually deploy;
- Allows all reservists and guardsmen to stay on TRICARE six months after deployment to ease the transition back to their private insurance.
“This amendment demonstrates a growing commitment of the Senate to providing continuity of care for Guardsmen and Reservists,” said Graham. “The next step is to ensure that continuity for all members of the ready reserve. We need to make sure that when the total force is called up, the total force is ready to go, fully trained, and medically cleared.”
Graham noted there is strong bipartisan support for the idea in the House as well. Last week the House voted overwhelmingly to support giving Guard and Reserve members the option to enroll in TRICARE 356 to 67.
“Since 9-11 there has been a seven hundred percent increase in the use of Guard and Reserve personnel,” said Graham. “We have not changed the benefits for these essential military personnel. It’s time we reward them for their service and patriotism, and make service to their country more attractive and fair.”
“Recent deployments have led to one-fourth of all Guard and Reserve members being called to active duty. The stress on the Guard and Reserve force is beginning to show. The Army National Guard is almost 15% short of its recruiting goal; some 69,000 soldiers short. Hopefully this measure will begin to help correct this trend.”
The amendment must now be passed by the House of Representatives and signed into law by President Bush.