Nearly 20,000 National Guard troops from all over the country have been mobilized to help the nation respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Referring to these men and women, Air Force Gen. Joseph Lengyel, Chief, National Guard Bureau, said, “This response isn’t just about delivering food or supporting COVID test centers. It’s about protecting our children, parents and grandparents…Our nation is looking to the National Guard to help and we can’t let them down.”
But are we letting them down?
Is there a “catch”?
It turns out that the Title 32 authorizations have only been given for 30 days and it just so happens that “troops must be mobilized for at least 31 days to receive TRICARE [medical] benefits.”
Retired Mississippi National Guard Brig. Gen. J. Roy Robinson, president of the National Guard Association of the United States, says that this mobilization was supposed to provide health care as part of the military’s TRICARE medical coverage.
His main concern, Robinson told the Military Times, is that because troops are often mobilized away from home and not near military medical installations, they would have to pay out of pocket to seek civilian medical care. Especially, the general points out, those troops who live in rural states often don’t have their own personal health insurance and rely on TRICARE.
Robinson warns, “These troops are going to be constantly exposed to people and other places where this sickness can be transmitted…It is more important now than any other time for them to have TRICARE insurance.”
Hopefully, the 30-day mobilization period was an innocent mistake and not petty penny-pinching during a national crisis at the expense of these brave men and women.
Hopefully it will be corrected.
A National Guard official, speaking anonymously because he was not authorized to comment, said the Guard is aware of the issue and trying to find a solution.
Officials from the Pentagon did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The author is a retired U.S. Air Force officer who has had the honor, the privilege, and the reward of serving his adopted country for 20 years proudly in both the enlisted and commissioned ranks, under six presidents – Republican and Democratic. Not once did he have the feeling that his commander in chief did not have his back, did not value his service, did not appreciate the minor sacrifices his family and he endured. In particular, never once the thought even occurred that, one day, a President of the United States would denigrate the troops and their service… would call those who did not return from battle “losers” and “suckers.”