Ross Spano, Tulsi Gabbard Honored for Work to Expand TRICARE for National Guard and Reserve Personnel

This week, U.S. Rep. Ross Spano, R-Fla., was honored for his work to reform TRICARE for National Guard and Reserve personnel.

Back in November, Spano introduced the “ TRICARE Fairness for National Guard and Reserve Retirees Act” with U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hi., as the cosponsor.

“The bill aligns the eligibility age for TRICARE Standard, Extra, and Prime with the age at which National Guard and Reserve personnel begin receiving their retired pay,” Spano’s office noted. “The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 lowered the retirement age for Reserve Component personnel from 60 to a lower age, but not below 50, based on active duty performance. However, the age reduction for retired pay eligibility for non-regular service did not reduce the eligibility age for health care. Qualified retired reserve members under the age of 60 looking for TRICARE medical coverage may now purchase TRICARE Retired Reserve (TRR). Once they reach 60, they and their qualifying family members become eligible for TRICARE Standard, Extra and Prime (where available).

“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,” Spano’s office added.

Spano, who was first elected to Congress in 2018, weighed in on why he had introduced the proposal.

“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,” Span said when he introduced the bill. “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.”

“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 Gabbard. “This bill honors their service and sacrifice by improving their retirement transition and make sure they get the healthcare they have earned.”

The Reserve Organization of America (ROA), the National Guard Association of the United States (NGAUS) and the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States (EANGUS) are all behind the proposal.

This week, EANGUS honored Spano and Gabbard, who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination with its “GV ‘Sonny’ Montgomery Eagle Award” for their efforts.

“EANGUS is honored to present one of its top awards, the G.V. ‘Sonny’ Montgomery Eagle award to Representative Ross Spano for his work in sponsoring legislation to marry the early retirement annuity and the TRICARE benefit. This legislation is vital to our members and we are very appreciative of Representative Spano for engaging on this important topic,” said Frank Yoakum, the executive director of EANGUS.

“I’m so honored to receive this recognition. I strongly believe in fighting for those who have worn our country’s uniform. I would also like to thank the Enlisted Association for their work on behalf of all enlisted guard members. My legislation is further proof that bipartisanship consensus in Congress is still attainable,” Spano said.

The bill was sent to the U.S. House Armed Services Committee and has gained more than a dozen additional cosponsors including Florida Republican U.S. Reps. Bill Posey and Dan Webster. So far, there is no counterpart in the U.S. Senate.

 

Reach Kevin Derby at kevin.derby@floridadaily.com.

 

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