Ask Your Lawmakers to Back Expanded TRICARE Access for ‘Gray Area’ Retirees

Ask Your Lawmakers to Back Expanded TRICARE Access for ‘Gray Area’ Retirees
A member of the Iowa National Guard participates in live-fire training May 20 at Camp Guernsey Joint Training Center, Wyo. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Tawny Kruse/Iowa National Guard)

Bipartisan, bicameral legislation would fix an inequity for 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. 1670) introduced by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and J.D. Vance (R-Ohio), and the House companion bill (H.R. 3668) 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 covered by 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 receive retired pay.


[TAKE ACTION: Ask Your Lawmakers to Support TRICARE Coverage Access for Gray Area Retirees]


MOAA supports this legislation ensuring all uniformed services retirees who receive retired pay are covered by the TRICARE health care benefit.


“Reserve Component members who earned early retirement pay through deployment credits should receive their full retirement package, including health care coverage,” said MOAA President and CEO Lt. Gen. Brian T. Kelly, USAF (Ret). “National Guard and Reserve early retirees have made many sacrifices, and their retirement should align with other uniformed retirees who are also eligible for TRICARE.”


Eligibility for retiree TRICARE translates into significant savings for reserve component retirees under age 60 who are receiving retired pay. TRR monthly premiums for 2023 are $549.35 for the member or $1,320.76 for the member plus family.


“Our nation’s retired Guardsmen and reservists should have access to all the healthcare options offered by the TRICARE system,” Vance said in a press release announcing the legislation. “With this legislation, we have an opportunity to guarantee that these patriotic men and women receive the high-quality, affordable care they deserve.”


Warren added similar sentiments, saying gray area retirees “shouldn’t be denied access to affordable health care – this bipartisan bill will help our servicemembers receive the health care coverage they deserve.”


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Reps. Phillips and Johnson also underscored their support in a press release for the House companion bill, with Phillips calling the provision of affordable, high-quality health care “the “very minimum standard of support afforded to our service members, especially those in the National Guard and Reserve who have earned early retirement.”


Congress “erred” by failing to link eligibility for certain TRICARE plans with the 2008 reduction in Guard and Reserve retirement age, Johnson said, adding that the legislation “would align the age that many Retired Reserve personnel begin receiving retired pay with the age at which they become eligible for the less costly TRICARE healthcare plans.”


MOAA appreciates lawmakers’ efforts to bring parity to health care coverage for gray area retirees receiving retired pay. Unfortunately, past benefit expansions for the uniformed services community have been funded by increasing TRICARE out-of-pocket costs. MOAA can’t support any funding solution that would increase TRICARE fees or otherwise reduce benefits for other segments of the military community; we urge Congress to find alternative funding sources to provide early National Guard and Reserve retirees with the health care benefits they have earned.


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.