Congressman Adam Smith (D-Tacoma), along with seven other members of the Washington state delegation have signed a letter to the chairmen of the Congressional appropriations committees that in the final version of the supplemental appropriations bill extending TRICARE medical insurance coverage to National Guard and Reserve members who are unemployed or otherwise have no employer-provided health insurance coverage.

“This is a readiness issue,” said Major General Timothy Lowenberg, Adjutant General, Washington state military department. “We need to ensure that our most valuable resource, our servicemen and women and their families, are taken care of when our nation calls them to serve.”

Currently, TRICARE benefits are provided only when a Guard or Reserve soldier is mobilized for federal service and actually deploys.  Currently, 21% of Guard and Reserve members have no health insurance which often results in health problems that delay deployments or leave soldiers medically unfit for deployment.  This added language would ensure that every member of the Guard and Reserve, and their families, have medical insurance year-round.  In addition, the language would make TRICARE coverage available when a member receives orders to deploy, rather than withholding coverage until the member actually deploys.  It would also allow members and their families to retain TRICARE benefits for up to six months following their return from deployment to ease the transition back to employer-provided private health insurance.

“At this critical time in our Nation’s history, it is vital that we do all we can to support the servicemen and women and their families,” Smith said. “The members of our military are sacrificing everyday for the people on the home front and it’s important to make sure that they and their families are taken care of so that they can focus on the mission at hand.”