Wes Hickman (202-224-5972) or Kevin Bishop (864-250-1417)
– U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today pushed for better health care benefits for members of the National Guard and Reserves.
Graham has sponsored an amendment, expected to be voted on in the next few days, allowing National Guard and Reserve personnel to purchase health care coverage for themselves and their families, regardless of their activation status, through the military health system TRICARE.
“We’re calling upon the Guard and Reserve at the same tempo level we did during World War II,” said Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “On a percentage basis, it’s even greater. So now is the time to increase benefits for Guard and Reserve members.”
Graham noted that under current law when a Guard or Reserve member is activated they and their family go into the military health care system (TRICARE). If they are not activated they remain in private employer-sponsored health insurance or forego health insurance altogether.
“When Guardsmen and Reservists are called to active duty they have to leave their civilian network of doctors and hospitals and go into the military network,” said Graham. “When they are deactivated, they have to go back into their old network.”
“Unfortunately, a significant number of people called to active duty from the Guard or Reserves are unable to go on active duty because of health care problems,” said Graham. “I believe it is long overdue to make sure every Guardsmen and Reservist has the opportunity to become a member of the military health care system.”
Graham said that in Iraq Guardsman and Reservists have rotated with the active-duty forces, increasing the reserve component share of the total U.S. forces to more than 40 percent. The reserves have also been charged with taking control of the entire peacekeeping mission in the Balkans.
“Better health care benefits will help our recruiting, readiness and retention efforts,” said Graham. “They need it and I think based upon what they have been asked to do, particularly since 9/11, they’ve earned it. We’re going to fight for better health care for them.”
“Guardsmen and Reservists are citizen-soldiers,” said Graham. “Increasingly they are being called up to duty, taken away from their work and families, and being sent to far-away lands for long tours of duty. We need to ensure the benefits they are receiving are equal to the sacrifice they are making to protect our country and interests around the world.”
The Congressional Budget has estimated the cost of the benefit at $5.4 billion over the next 5 years.