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DelBene’s Fix for National Guard Healthcare Clears Committee, Heads to Floor

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Washington, DC, April 27, 2016 | comments

The House Armed Services Committee today added Congresswoman Suzan DelBene’s (WA-01) bill to the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), ensuring National Guard members retain health coverage when responding to state emergencies, such as landslides or earthquakes.

“We should not be forcing our National Guard members to choose between helping our communities and caring for their own families,” DelBene said. “My bill is a simple fix to an unnecessary problem, and will ensure all our brave men and women are covered when they respond to state emergencies. I’m glad to see this commonsense legislation garner such broad, bipartisan support, and I thank the members of the House Armed Services Committee for supporting its inclusion in this year’s defense authorization.”

The National Guard often serves as the primary resource for states during times of disaster. Unfortunately, some Guard members serving on new Homeland Response Force (HRF) units — which provide rapid response capabilities in the event of an emergency — are at risk of losing health coverage when responding to natural disasters or emergencies, based on the unique status they serve under. Earlier this year, DelBene introduced H.R. 4554 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.

DelBene asked Rep. Rick Larsen (WA-02), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, to offer her bill as an amendment during the NDAA markup. Larsen is also an original cosponsor of DelBene’s bill.

“Members of the National Guard serve our communities in times of greatest need. Guard members should be able to focus on the critical efforts at hand with no worry about their health coverage. I appreciate Congresswoman DelBene’s work on this issue, and I am pleased the committee acted today to protect health coverage for Homeland Response Force Guard members,” Larsen said.

The NDAA is expected to come before the full House for a vote in May. 

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