Issues & Advocacy

Issue: Personnel & Benefits

National Guard members and their families deserve proper medical coverage, education and employment opportunities as well as retirement and veterans’ protections.

Issue Overview

NGAUS provides a voice on Capitol Hill for our National Guard members, their families and retirees to ensure that they receive proper benefits for their service, including medical coverage, education, retirement, veterans protection and employment opportunities.

What's At Stake

Allow veteran status for all retired members
Reserve Component members can complete a full Guard or Reserve career but not earn the title of “Veteran of the Armed Forces of the United States” unless they have served on Title 10 active duty beyond training purposes. Today, National Guard members operating in Title 32 status may one day retire from the Guard but not qualify to be classified as a Veteran of the Armed Forces. Legislation in Congress to rectify this situation comes at no cost to taxpayers. Granting Guardsmen the simple right to call themselves a veteran is an important recognition of service.

Support Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Recommendations on TRICARE 
The Commission on Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization recommends that changes and alternatives to TRICARE are in order citing problems with access to care, number and location of providers, cumbersome referral and authorization process, limited provider networks and members preference for a greater choice. 

The members of the National Guard have always faced difficult choices during mobilization and demobilization and know how costly and confusing these transitions can be for them and their families moving on and off TRICARE.  Disruptions in health care coverage, services, and providers have occurred.  These problems are even more magnified when a member of the Guard is not supporting a contingency operation.  For these reasons alone, it is worth considering a different approach to health care for the reserve component.

The Commission recommends giving service members the option of selecting from the more than 250 health insurance plans available under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP). This program would be called TRICARE Choice and administered by OPM.   The DoD would sponsor and approve the levels of care of these commercial health insurance plans.  The thought is that more physicians are available in FEHBP networks and that it is more likely RC families’ civilian job health insurance physicians are one in the same.  Service members and their families would not be subject to the same rates as other federal employees within FEHPB.

In another positive step for the National Guard, DoD could instead fund part of the RC member’s existing health insurance plan instead of requiring transition to a DoD-sponsored commercial programs.  For example, RC members who are mobilized would receive a new Basic Allowance for Health Care (BAHC) to apply toward a DoD plan or to cover the employees share of their existing health care plans.

NGAUS supports changes that give members of the Guard and their famillies greater access and flexibility in chosing their health care plans.

Allow Members of the Reserve Component to receive retirement compensation after 20 years of service 
Members of the National Guard and Reserve deserve the opportunity to receive retirement compensation they have earned immediately upon retirement without age restriction, just like their active duty counterparts. 

Fund the National Guard community and embedded mental health program
Suicides throughout the military and among veterans continue at an alarming near epidemic rate. National Guard and Reserve personnel at risk for suicide and dangerous behavioral health conditions need convenient access to mental health professionals for screening, care and referrals. On-site access to embedded mental health professionals during training assemblies has proven successful in overcoming geographical, stigma and time barriers that might otherwise bar a member from similar services in a rural or underserved community. Congress has authorized a community based mental health care pilot program for serving National Guard members and the embedding of mental health care providers with soldiers and airmen during unit training assemblies to provide screening and treatment. However, these programs still need sustained funding to grow into a long-term, viable service for those in need.

Fix the disproportionate denial rate for Guard VA disability claims
The Veterans Administration is denying disability benefit compensation claims for reserve component veterans at four times the rate of active duty veterans. Possible reasons for the disparity include incomplete or non-existent theater medical records. National Guard and Reserve personnel who fought bravely in OIF and OEF should not be unnecessarily punished because of neglectful medical record keeping in theater and a demobilization system that compromises successful VA disability benefit claims arising from service-connected injuries that were not properly identified on active duty.