President Signs DelBene’s Fix for National Guard Healthcare Into Law
President Obama today signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2017, which included Congresswoman Suzan DelBene’s (WA-01) National Guard Family Protection Act (H.R. 4554) to ensure National Guard members retain health coverage when responding to state emergencies, such as landslides or earthquakes. The bill also included a DelBene measure easing the burden of relocation on our nation’s military families.
“National Guard members should never be forced to choose between helping our communities and caring for their own families,” DelBene said. “The inclusion of my bill in the NDAA ensures all our brave men and women are covered when they respond to state emergencies. I’m glad the legislation earned such broad, bipartisan support, and I thank President Obama for signing this important reform into law.”
The National Guard often serves as the primary resource for states during times of disaster. Before passage of DelBene’s bill, some Guard members serving on new Homeland Response Force (HRF) units were at risk of losing health coverage when responding to natural disasters or emergencies, based on the unique status they serve under. DelBene introduced the legislative fix in February to guarantee these Guard members and their families retain health coverage during disaster response efforts.
After the SR 530 landslide in Oso, DelBene was contacted by Guard members who were facing the loss of healthcare coverage if they decided to stay on the ground to help the community. Washington state’s Adjutant General Bret Daugherty asked DelBene to introduce legislation to remedy this situation before the next disaster strikes.
“Part of being in the Guard is helping our communities during emergencies. We want our Guard members to focus on the mission of protecting lives and property and not whether their families will lose their healthcare coverage,” Daugherty said. “We appreciate Congresswoman DelBene and her staff’s efforts in getting the National Guard Family Protection Act included in the NDAA.”
The final NDAA also includes an amendment DelBene attached to the bill in May, helping military spouses find employment when U.S. servicemembers receive Permanent Change of Station (PCS) orders, which require them to uproot their families and relocate to support our national security.