Help Extend TRICARE Benefits to Some ‘Gray Area’ Reserve Component Retirees

Help Extend TRICARE Benefits to Some ‘Gray Area’ Reserve Component Retirees
Photo by Jason W. Edwards/Army

Bipartisan, bicameral legislation would extend TRICARE benefits to reserve component retirees who receive retirement pay before age 60 due to deployment credits but don’t get retiree TRICARE coverage until they reach age 60.  


The TRICARE Fairness for National Guard and Reserve Retirees Act (S. 829), introduced by Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and the House companion bill (H.R. 1997), introduced by Reps. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio) and Dean Phillips (D-Minn.) would ensure these “gray area” retirees who qualify for retirement pay before age 60 are eligible for the TRICARE retiree benefit. Under current law, gray area retirees who want TRICARE coverage must purchase TRICARE Retired Reserve (TRR), an expensive premium-based plan, even if they are receiving retired pay.


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MOAA supports this legislation ensuring all uniformed services retirees who receive retired pay are also covered by the TRICARE health care benefit. Reserve component members who have earned early retirement pay through deployment credits should receive the full retirement package, including health care coverage.


“Our nation asks a lot from the reserve component, both abroad and at home. The least we can do after a career of service and sacrifice is to ensure fair health care access for all retirees who are drawing retirement pay,” said MOAA President and CEO Lt. Gen. Dana T. Atkins, USAF (Ret). “MOAA strongly supports the TRICARE Fairness for National Guard and Reserve Retirees Act and urges swift passage.”


Eligibility for retiree TRICARE translates into significant savings for reserve component retirees under age 60 who are receiving retired pay. For 2021, TRR monthly premiums are $484.83 for the member only or $1,165.01 for the member plus family.


Heavy reliance on the National Guard and Reserve over the past year underscores the need to fix this TRICARE parity issue. Reserve component members played key roles in wildfire rescues, national disaster emergency management, and responses to the COVID-19 pandemic and civil disturbances. In 2020, the National Guard mobilized more members, for a longer time period, than any time since World War II, Lt. Col. Devin Robinson, USAF, director of public affairs for the Air National Guard, told Military Times in December.


[RELATED: Bipartisan Legislation Would Repeal TRICARE Select Enrollment Fee for Some Retirees]


MOAA appreciates lawmakers’ efforts to bring parity to health care coverage for gray area retirees receiving retired pay.


In a press release, Sens. Portman and Warren explained the importance of this legislation.


“We owe our servicemembers a great debt of gratitude for the safety and freedom we enjoy every day. We must continue to correct the disparities in how they receive their benefits,” Portman said. 


Warren added: “Our servicemembers make enormous sacrifices for us and our reservists and National Guardsmen and women who retire early shouldn’t be denied access to affordable health care at the time of their retirement.”


Reps. Phillips and Johnson also underscored their support in a press release for the House companion bill.


“As a Gold Star Son, I know that our service members deserve our utmost respect and unbending support,” Phillips said. “Providing affordable, high-quality health care should be the minimum standard of support afforded to our service members, especially those in the National Guard and Reserve who have earned early retirement.”


Johnson said that “with everything our National Guard and Reserve members do for us, the least we can do is ensure that when they finish their service to our country and retire, they are not forced to wait up to 10 years before being eligible for the less costly TRICARE health care plans they have earned. We owe it to them to get this legislation across the finish line.”


Please contact your elected officials and ask them to co-sponsor this important legislation to bring health care coverage parity to gray area retirees receiving early retirement pay. 


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About the Author

Karen Ruedisueli
Karen Ruedisueli

Ruedisueli is MOAA’s Director of Government Relations for Health Affairs and also serves as co-chair of The Military Coalition’s (TMC) Health Care Committee. She spent six years with the National Military Family Association, advocating for families of the uniformed services with a focus on health care and military caregivers.