Wyden Calls on DoD Undersecretary to Change Policy Denying Injured Guard and Reserve Members Transitional Medical Assistance
Washington, D.C. – After admitting that the Pentagon’s policy for providing transitional medical assistance to some of the most severely injured National Guard and Reserve members returning from combat and separating from active duty was flawed, the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Dr. Clifford Stanley has yet to amend the policy more than 150 days after agreeing to change it.
U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) sent a letter to Stanley calling on him to keep his promise to the hundreds of injured soldiers being denied medical assistance through a faulty interpretation of the Transitional Assistance Medical Program (TAMP). Under current policy, some active duty members who are assigned to a Warrior Transition Unit are considered to be separated, causing the 180 days of temporary transitional medical benefits for wounded servicemembers to run concurrently with the medical care they are already receiving while on active duty.
This can mean that a soldier who suffers a severe injury, like losing a limb, that requires a stay of more than 180 days in a Warrior Transition Unit, will be released from the army with no TAMP benefits at all. When that soldier requires follow-up care, he would have to travel to a VA hospital, which may be many hours away, instead of having the option to see a local doctor.
“During our April 8, 2011 meeting,” Wyden wrote to Stanley, “I expressed my view that this interpretation not only violates the intent of the law passed by Congress, it defies decency, and harms those who have given the most for their country. During that meeting you agreed with me that the law was being improperly applied when it comes to Guard and Reserve members who return from combat. You pledged to quickly change the DoD policy to properly reflect the intent of Congress…”
“It has now been over 150 days and injured servicemembers continue to be denied benefits because you have failed to reform DoD policy.”
Under TAMP -- extended as part of the FY2005 Defense Authorization act -- members of the National Guard and Reserve returning from combat and separating from active duty are given 180 days of health care coverage after separating from the service. This coverage gives them and their family access to TRICARE in order to ease their transition back into civilian life. However, the DoD has been misapplying the law and counting injured servicemembers assigned to units where they can receive medical care while still remaining on active duty as having separated from the service – starting the clock on their TAMP benefits.
September 13, 2011
Dr. Clifford L. Stanley
Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness
Personnel and Readiness
U.S. Department of Defense
4000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301-4000
Dear Secretary ,
I am writing to express my disappointment that you have not followed through on your promise to change the Department of Defense’s (DoD) policy concerning the Transitional Assistance Medical Program (TAMP). Hundreds of injured soldiers continue to be denied the medical benefits they have earned because of the continued failure of DoD to properly implement TAMP.
As you know, the FY2005 Defense Authorization bill (P.L. 108-375) extended TAMP benefits to 180 days for members of the National Guard and Reserve who have returned from combat and separated from Active Duty. This gives them, and their families, access to TRICARE health care for 180 days after they leave active duty service in order to ease their transition back to civilian life.
Unfortunately, DoD has been misapplying this law and counting injured servicemembers that are assigned to a Warrior Transition Battalion (WTU) or a Community Based Warrior Transition Battalion (CBWTU), and are still on Active Duty, as being separated from Active Duty. This means that the more injured a servicemember is, and the longer he or she receives care in a WTU or CBWTU, the fewer days of TRICARE medical coverage that servicemember gets. And if a servicemember stays on Active Duty in a WTU or CBWTU for more than 180 days, as in common for those that have lost a limb in combat, they receive no TAMP benefit at all when they are finally released.
During our April 8, 2011 meeting, I expressed my view that this interpretation not only violates the intent of the law passed by Congress, it defies decency, and harms those who have given the most for their country. During that meeting you agreed with me that the law was being improperly applied when it comes to Guard and Reserve members who return from combat. You pledged to quickly change the DoD policy to properly reflect the intent of Congress that TAMP benefits should begin when a service member is released from Active Duty and not from a particular Active Duty deployment, so that TAMP benefits do not run concurrent with recovery at a WTU or CBWTU.
It has now been over 150 days and injured servicemembers continue to be denied benefits because you have failed to reform DoD policy. This delay is inexcusable and I ask you, in the strongest terms, to quickly follow through with your commitment.
Thank you for your swift attention to this important matter.
United States Senator