Over the past week, ROA addressed government leaders as well as military and veteran support organizations on the challenges Reservists face when transitioning back to the home front.
On Thursday, May 17, ROA was invited to attend a roundtable which was hosted by House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, who was joined by 15 other Democrat members of Congress. Continuing a series of talks that have been held over the last seven years, ROA joined other associations in discussing issues affecting veterans. CAPT Marshall Hanson, ROA’s legislative director spoke about Guard and Reserve unemployment and healthcare, especially during transition from deployment back to the home front.
In the discussion, Hanson focused on the challenging problem that Reservists and Guardsmen face upon returning home: unemployment. Arguing that members of the Reserve Components face discrimination from employers, Hanson highlighted that the unemployment for the Reserve and Guard remains at about ten percent higher than nonaffiliated veterans. “This is a result of stealth discrimination when employers avoid individuals who could be recalled to active duty.” Hanson contended “While the passage of the Vow to Hire Heroes Act was a good first step, further incentives need to be put in place to encourage employers to hire Reserve Component members, who while veterans, also remain on call with the military.”
In his statement, Hanson thanked ranking member Susan Davis (CA-D) formerly of the House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee, commending her and the committee for including transitional health care for individual Selected Reservists who have to leave drilling status in the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2013. If passed, the new coverage would provide six months of access to TRICARE Reserve Select for those who are eligible. However, the proposed new coverage would make a small victory in the grand scheme of seamless transitions for service members. “Unfortunately, the transition for injured and wounded Reserve and Guard members coming off of active duty is not going as smoothly,” Hanson said. “Many are being discharged before finishing their military health treatment. This shifts the medical treatment cost burden from the Department of Defense to the Veterans Administration or TRICARE. Savings in military pay and allowances are offset by higher health care costs and the potential disability compensation costs from a diminished quality of life as a result of deferred medical treatment.”
Further focusing on healthcare, especially in rural areas, ROA attended a roundtable discussion hosted by the White House on Veteran mental health treatment on Tuesday, May 22. Addressing the Chiefs of Staff from the White House, the First Lady’s office, and the Domestic Policy Council, CAPT Hanson joined other military and veteran support organizations in analyzing the problems veterans have in accessing mental health treatment. Hanson highlighted that only Tricare beneficiaries have access to telehealth and mental health counseling. Through working with Health Net and the Department of Veterans Affairs on Rural Mental Health Program, these beneficiaries can receive the aid they need. However, as discussed in previous posts (see Healthcare: A Catch-22 for Reservists), Tricare may not be the best solution for Reservists and Guardsmen.
As the total force structure will rely more on an operational Reserve force as the United States withdraws from Afghanistan, ROA believes that more efficient policies need to be established for Reservists in order to create an enduring Reserve force. Having to balance both military and civilian lives, these men and women make more sacrifices; it is only fitting that their nation gives back to them.