WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA), a retired Lieutenant Colonel in the Iowa Army National Guard and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities, along with fellow member of the Senate Armed Services Committee Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), announced they will introduce legislation to provide transitional health care benefits to National Guard servicemembers who have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic under Title 32 502(f) orders.
“Right now, we have Iowa National Guard troops on the front lines fighting COVID-19. We need to make sure these hardworking men and women can use their military health insurance, TRICARE, for at least six months after their mission. This is common sense and will take a huge burden of worry off our military families. I’m proud to cosponsor this bipartisan effort to ensure continuity of health care for our servicemembers who have rushed to help Iowans and Americans during this crisis,” said Senator Ernst.
“As we fight the COVID-19 pandemic, our National Guard servicemembers are on the front lines, providing support for unemployment programs, feeding members of their communities, and ensuring hospitals receive essential PPE and other medical supplies. That’s why I successfully fought to extend National Guardsman Title 32 502f deployment orders to 31 days to ensure they received healthcare coverage while working on the front lines of the pandemic. Every day they put themselves at risk to take care of their fellow West Virginians, and I am proud to introduce bipartisan legislation with Senator Ernst to ensure our servicemembers receive the transition benefits they deserve. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pass this legislation for our brave servicemembers,” said Senator Manchin.
“The National Guard Association of the United States (NGAUS) thanks Sen. Manchin and Senator Ernst for introducing legislation supporting National Guard servicemembers on the frontlines with COVID-19,” said retired Brig. Gen. J. Roy Robinson, the NGAUS President. “National Guard soldiers and airmen are serving alongside our brave doctors, nurses, and first responders and they deserve comprehensive healthcare in the battle against COVID-19. This commonsense legislation ensures that National Guard members continue to receive critical healthcare coverage when they are able to return home to their families.”
When a National Guard servicemember deploys on an operation abroad, the federal government provides that Guardsman with transition benefits when they return home to ensure there is no lapse in health care coverage. However, National Guardsmen serving on Title 32 502(f) orders in response to the COVID-19 pandemic do not receive those same benefits. The senators’ bipartisan bill, the Support our National Guard Act, will provide National Guard servicemembers responding to the COVID-19 pandemic with those benefits because of their efforts on the front lines of the crisis.
Currently, over 46,000 National Guard troops and 13,000 active duty troops are helping fight COVID-19. Earlier this week, Ernst proposed a bill directing the Pentagon to provide tax-free hazardous duty pay with back pay for these hardworking men and women on the front lines of this pandemic. The bill directs the Department of Defense (DoD) to provide at least $150 in monthly tax-free hazardous duty pay with back pay for National Guardsmen, active duty servicemembers, and other military medical corps professionals responding to the military’s COVID-19 operations.
Ernst also sent a letter to President Trump asking that he grant Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds’s request to extend the authorization of the Iowa National Guard to serve in Title 32 status through June 30, 2020.