Representatives Bice, Sherrill Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Support Disabled National Guardsmen
Washington, D.C. - Yesterday, Representative Stephanie Bice (R-OK) and Representative Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ) introduced H.R. 4247, the Supporting Disabled National Guardsmen Act. Additional original cosponsors include Rep. Sara Jacobs (D-CA), Rep. Kat Cammack (R-FL), Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-MS) and Rep. August Pfluger, (R-TX).
This legislation would ensure that National Guardsmen who are disabled while serving on State Active Duty are able to access medical care through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and disability benefits through the Department of Defense (DoD). Unfortunately, Guardsmen injured on State Active Duty are unable to access VA health benefits and are ineligible for a DoD disability pension when they can no longer work due to their injuries. Rather, these servicemembers generally must rely on state workers’ compensation plans, which are often woefully inferior to traditional military health and disability benefits.
Rep. Bice became aware that National Guardsmen were not covered by federal benefits while on active duty in a state, following a tragic accident in Vinita, Okla. On February 15, 2021, Oklahoma National Guard Specialist Cody Casey was catastrophically injured assisting stranded motorists during a winter storm when his Humvee was struck by a semi.
“In the instance of SPC. Casey, the state is covering his medical expenses for now, but I’m also concerned about coverage for SPC Casey’s long-term care,” Rep. Bice said. “Many of our National Guardsmen have not been as lucky. It’s our duty as a nation to provide high quality health and disability benefits to those who put their lives on the line to assist the citizens of this country, whether that’s on an overseas battlefield, or American soil.”
“In the last few years, we’ve seen the men and women of the National Guard go to extraordinary lengths to serve our country,” said Rep. Sherrill. “Whether they’re responding to a disaster, providing COVID-19 relief, or protecting our Capitol, they deserve to know that they will be protected if they are injured. It’s our duty as a nation to care for our service members, whether they’re in state or federal service, which is why I am proud to co-lead the Supporting Disabled National Guardsmen Act.”
“The brave men and women of our National Guard are always ready to answer the call to help their fellow citizens regardless of the location and they deserve the same protections whether they are serving in Oklahoma or abroad. I applaud Rep. Bice for introducing this legislation to support heroes like Specialist Cody Casey who have been injured serving their communities.” – Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt
SPC. Casey is grateful for the medical care he is receiving from the state, but is concerned for his fellow National Guardsmen who might not receive that same care, particularly those who are injured so severely that they are no longer able to continue serving in uniform.
“This state active duty mission was created, so I volunteered to assist my fellow Oklahomans who were stranded on the Interstate during a winter storm, as part of the National Guard’s Stranded Motor Assist Response Team. I never imagined how that day would turn out. But I’m one of the lucky ones. For now, the state is covering my medical expenses, but what happens in 10 to 15 years when I need a hip replacement or other surgeries as result of this incident,” said SPC. Casey.
“What happens to the next service member that volunteers and gets hurt on a state active duty mission? Or those who don’t have a good job with the type of medical coverage needed to cover surgeries years down the road resulting from the on-duty incident. What happens to the service member that cannot go back to their civilian job? That’s why this legislation is so important. The National Guard serves both community and country. Our country must honor the commitment it made to the men and women of the National Guard, and provide medical care for their injuries from the VA or if necessary, a disability pension from the Department of Defense.”
Several prominent national military associations have endorsed the Supporting Disabled National Guardsmen Act:
“National Guard soldiers and airmen risk injury every time they answer their state’s call to respond to an emergency,” said retired Brig. Gen. J. Roy Robinson, the president of the National Guard Association of the United States. “When they have our backs, they need to know that we have theirs should they get hurt. Representative Bice’s legislation would do just that. The men and women of the National Guard applaud her.”
"Ensuring National Guard members are well cared for after a severe injury is our top concern," said SGM (Ret) Mathew Krenz, the Executive Director for the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States of America. "Regardless of the type of order or status our National Guard servicemembers are working under if they are injured it is our nation's responsibility to ensure they are well cared for, and receive the proper VA benefits. We thank Rep Stephanie Bice for recognizing our needs and introducing this legislation."
“ROA thanks Rep. Stephanie Bice for the bipartisan Supporting Disabled National Guardsmen Act which protects members of the National Guard catastrophically injured on State Active Duty. This act helps close the disparity in healthcare benefits for those who serve as twice the citizen, but may get a fraction of the care they need,” said retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Jeffrey E. Phillips, ROA’s executive director.
“Over the past year, members of the National Guard have taken on domestic missions at historic levels, who often serve within their states under the command of the governor, which may not qualify them for the same level of care provided to those serving on federal active duty under the direction of the president. ROA urges passage of this bill and its accompaniment in the Senate with legislation that can be conferenced and go to the president for his signature.”