Reps. Joe Cunningham (D-SC) and Steven Palazzo (R-MS) on Friday introduced the Support Our National Guard Act, bipartisan legislation that would provide transitional health care benefits to National Guard service members who have aided the national response to the COVID-19 pandemic under Title 32 502(f) orders.
Under current law, National Guard service members serving on federally funded duty orders are entitled to six months of transitional TRICARE coverage after they are demobilized, under the Transitional Assistance Management Program (TAMP). However, the service members currently activated in response to the COVID-19 pandemic are not eligible for TAMP benefits. This legislation would remedy the situation by requiring the Defense Department to provide TAMP benefits to any National Guard service member activated to support the government response to the pandemic.
“The South Carolina National Guard has provided critical support to our state’s COVID-19 response efforts, serving alongside doctors, nurses, first responders, and other heroes of the coronavirus pandemic,” Rep. Joe Cunningham said. “They’ve put themselves at great risk each day to provide indispensable help establishing provisional hospitals, feeding members of their community, and ensuring hospitals receive essential PPE and other medical supplies. This common-sense bill ensures that they continue to receive critical health care coverage when they return home to their families.”
“The National Guard has always been ready to serve the American people, no matter how big the challenge," Rep. Palazzo, Co-Chair of the House National Guard and Reserve Caucus, said. "As the coronavirus spread through the nation, members of the Guard once again put the needs of others before their own. As a way to support these individuals, our legislation aims to allow Guardsmen to qualify for transitional TRICARE up to 180 days after a COVID-19 related deployment,”
This legislation has been endorsed by the National Guard Association of the United States and is the House companion to legislation introduced in the Senate by Senators Joe Manchin (D-VW) and Joni Ernst (R-IA).
There are currently over 45,000 National Guard service members on active orders supporting state and federal coronavirus response operations on the front lines of this crisis. To date, over 1,000 service members in the National Guard have contracted the coronavirus. On Thursday, Cunningham joined over 70 of his colleagues to urge the Department of Defense (DOD) to extend the activations of men and women in the National for the duration of the President’s emergency and disaster declarations so they can continue to assist with the nation’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. The call comes after it was reported that the June 24th deadline would fall just short of the 90 days of service required for many members of the National Guard to qualify for certain federal benefits, including the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill.
Last month, Cunningham introduced the Pandemic Hazard Pay Expansion Act, critical legislation that would expand hazard duty pay to uniformed servicemembers whose duties put them at risk of exposure to a pandemic disease in a Public Health Emergency, including COVID-19 response.