Reps. Tulsi Gabbard and Ross Spano Introduce Bill to Improve Healthcare Access for National Guard and Reserve Retirees
November 19, 2019
Washington, DC—Today, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02), along with Rep. Ross Spano (FL-15), introduced H.R.5169, the TRICARE Fairness for National Guard and Reserve Retirees Act. The legislation would ensure that retired members of the National Guard and Reserve personnel and their dependents receive the health care benefits to which they are entitled by aligning the eligibility age for TRICARE Standard, Extra, and Prime with the age at which personnel begins receiving their retired pay.
“National Guard and Reservists who are eligible for early retirement currently do not have similar eligibility as Active Duty early retirees for traditional TRICARE because of a technicality. This means they have added costs to get the healthcare they need,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. “This bill honors their service and sacrifice by improving their retirement transition and making sure they get the healthcare they have earned.”
“We have heavily relied upon our National Guard and Reserve personnel for the past 20 years, and they have made major contributions to our force structure for over 200 years. A decade ago, Congress lowered the age they can receive their retired pay based on active duty service. It’s not right that their eligibility for traditional TRICARE was left at age 60. This has resulted in early retirees often spending the vast majority, if not all, of their pension on TRICARE premiums until they reach 60. This bill will help servicemembers transition into retirement as intended when Congress reduced their retirement age,” said Rep. Ross Spano.
The bill is supported by the Reserve Officers Association, National Guard Association of the United States (NGAUS), and the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States.
“The Reserve Organization of America (ROA) thanks Rep. Ross Spano for his efforts to ensure military retirees from the Reserve and National Guard have the same affordable health care as other military retirees. Unlike active duty retirees who receive affordable healthcare, “gray-area” retirees from the Reserve and Guard who qualify for a deployment early retirement do not receive the same medical plan. This bill will ensure they at least have affordable health care,” said Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Phillips, Executive Director, ROA.
“The National Guard Association of the United States (NGAUS) thanks Rep. Spano and Rep. Gabbard for introducing the TRICARE Fairness for National Guard and Reserve Retirees Act to align health care eligibility with early retirement,” said retired Brig. Gen. J. Roy Robinson, NGAUS President. “This fix in the law is long overdue and we strongly endorse quick passage of this important legislation for our retirees.”
“The Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States (EANGUS) extends its support for the TRICARE Fairness for National Guard and Reserve Retirees Act. We thank Rep. Spano and Rep. Gabbard for introducing the legislation. Many members are separating from the National Guard before the age of 60 because of early retirement credits, but are unable to retain their health care coverage. This legislation would fix the loophole and ease those members’ transitions to civilian life,” said an EANGUS representative.
Background: The retirement age for Reserve Component and National Guard Soldiers who served on Active Duty was reduced by the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act, allowing those who served on Active Duty to count qualifying service toward a reduction in retirement age. However, this change was not matched with an equivalent change in TRICARE eligibility, and only once the retiree reaches age 60 will the service member and qualifying family members become eligible for TRICARE Standard, Extra and Prime.
As a comparison, TRR for FY19 was $451.51 per month for an individual plan or $5,418.12 annually. TRICARE Prime for servicemembers who began service prior to 2018 has an annual enrollment fee of $297 for an individual. TRICARE Select has no yearly enrollment fee for those same servicemembers.
H.R.5169, the TRICARE Fairness for National Guard and Reserve Retirees Act, addresses the gap in health care coverage that was created by the change in retirement eligibility. It is supported by the Reserve Officers Association, National Guard Association of the United States, and the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has led the fight in Congress to ensure that U.S. service members, veterans, and their families receive the care they need and deserve. She recently introduced a package of bills aimed at improving mental health care for veterans. She previously worked together with Rep. Spano, along with Rep. Lawson, to introduce a bill to support veteran-owned small businesses. In addition to raising awareness about the challenges faced by Hawai‘i’s veterans, she has been an outspoken leader across a range of healthcare challenges that veterans face including recognizing and providing healthcare for victims of Agent Orange and burn pits, sexual assault, improving care for the growing number of female veterans as more and more women serve, meeting the needs of disabled veterans as well as veterans in rural areas, and tackling the challenges of suicide and mental health.
About Rep. Tulsi Gabbard: Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard is serving her fourth term in the United States House representing Hawai‘i’s Second District, and serves on the House Armed Services and Financial Services Committees. She previously served on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Homeland Security Committee. She was elected to the Honolulu City Council in 2010, and prior to that at age 21, was elected to the Hawaiʻi State Legislature in 2002, becoming the youngest person ever elected in the state. Tulsi Gabbard has served in the Hawaiʻi Army National Guard for 16 years, is a veteran of two Middle East deployments, and continues to serve as a Major. Learn more about Rep. Tulsi Gabbard...
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