Outgoing Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was quite generous in pushing through a mega-billion dollar Defense Authorization bill for 2023 in her waning days. It contains big sums of cash to teach foreign allied armed forces how to be gender inclusive and gives Ukraine some $800 million for border security. Retired Brigadier General J. Roy Robinson, the president and chief executive officer of the National Guard Association of the United States, said what’s not in there is proper funding for the needs of the men and women of the National Guard.
In an interview with Rebecca Weber, CEO of the Association of Mature American Citizens, on AMAC’s Better For America podcast, Robinson pointed out that the needs of our men and women of the state-based National Guard were all but ignored.
As he put it, “members of the National Guard [are] serving in uniform across the United States [and] still reporting to the governors of their states, who still are doing their duty in a state status, responding to different types of missions. And they may or may not have their health and dental insurance coverage in place. So, are there other things that I would prefer to see Congress include and utilize some of those dollars for? … Based on what the Guard brings to the fight, especially today, [not providing health care coverage] is kind of a disservice.”
Weber noted that thousands of members of our armed forces have been discharged because they refused the COVID vaccine. “I don’t think it makes sense,” Robinson responded, “in this particular day and time to prevent anyone from serving their nation because of their lack of a COVID vaccine.”
The general went on to say he thinks it would be wise to lift the vaccine requirement, adding that many of those who have been discharged may re-up and continue serving their nation.
The issue of soldiers being discharged for refusing the COVID vaccine evolved into a discussion of health care for the men and women in the National Guard. Robinson said it is a top-of-the-list issue for the National Guard Association. He said that the average citizen is likely unaware that although they wear the uniform and they are on call for dangerous assignments, they lack “the full benefit of medical and dental coverage through their federal service … It makes no sense to me. In fact, it seems so foreign that I have a hard time sometimes with helping people to understand it. But it’s real. It’s a fact that we continue to have about 60,000 members of the National Guard who do not have health insurance on a daily basis. We’ve got to fix it. I think with all the things that have been asked of the guard over the last 386 years and specifically the last 21 years, this has got to be resolved. There’s no excuse.”
He pointed out that there are currently bills in both the House and Senate that would provide coverage. The legislation “basically says that all those members of the National Guard and Reserve who are not currently enrolled in TRICARE [the Department of Defense’s premier health care program] will be enrolled and they’ll be enrolled with no fees, no premiums, no deductibles, no co-pays. And they’ll be covered health insurance wise and dental insurance wise, seven days a week, 24 hours a day, regardless of their status.”
Robinson concluded his interview on an optimistic note.
“Like I said, there are not a lot of things that survive 386 years,” Robinson said. “And the benefit that the nation gets, the benefit of having a very low-cost National Guard, that can come in when they are needed and contribute to the safety and security of this nation is a big deal. I think that when this country was first organized and founded, the guard was kind of the backbone of the nation … I believe that the guard is going to be the backbone of what the future will be. It’s an organization that any nation in the world would give anything to have in their country as a part of their security, and as a part of the backbone of the nation itself. So, yeah, there are tough things going on. These are different times. But you know what? The National Guard and the nation have survived much more difficult times. And I think the National Guard is the one with the staying power. I put my money on the one that’s been here 386 years.”