[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, today announced legislation in the U.S, Senate, first introduced and led by U.S. Representatives Joe Courtney (D-CT) and Trent Kelly (R-MS) in the House, to extend crucial health benefits to surviving families of National Guard members and Reservists.
Sergeant First Class Michael Clark, of Bolton, Connecticut, died during a training exercises in Georgia last year. Under current law, survivors and their families only retain their health benefits for six months following the death of a servicemember. The Sergeant First Class Clark Tricare Reserve Parity Act would amend the existing law to ensure three years of benefits, as is standard for active duty military.
“Sgt First Class Michael Clark sacrificed his life serving in the Army Reserves, but his Gold Star Family was denied benefits received by active duty families. I’m introducing legislation to correct this reprehensible wrong. Our measure would assure National Guard and Reserve families, who sacrifice just as much as active duty families, receive the same health benefits when a servicemember dies,” Blumenthal said. “Our National Guard and Reserve families deserve better and I am proud to partner with Sen. Warren and Reps. Courtney and Kelly in the House to get this done.”
“All three of my brothers served in the military, so I know the sacrifices that servicemembers and their families make and the benefits they deserve,” said Senator Warren. “I am glad that this legislation will ensure surviving families of our National Guard Members and reservists receive the same health benefits as families of other active duty servicemembers.”
The Sergeant First Class Clark Tricare Reserve Parity Act is endorsed by the National Guard Association of the United States, the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), the National Military Families Association and Blue Star Families.
"The loss of a service member creates an enduring void and we cannot take that away,” said retired Brigadier General J. Roy Robinson, the NGAUS President. “What we can do is provide additional time to gradually make benefit adjustments. During their deepest grief, the last thing a family should be concerned about is health care coverage. We applaud Senators Blumenthal and Warren for their support to military families and for correcting this inequity.”
"TAPS thanks Senators Blumenthal and Warren for introducing the Sergeant First Class Michael Clark TRICARE Reserve Parity Act to extend the period during which survivors and their families can remain on TRICARE Reserve Select to three years. This important legislation will provide surviving families of Guard and Reserve members with the same benefits as their active-duty counterparts. Surviving families, regardless of duty status or cause of death, should not have to worry about access to critical healthcare and mental health coverage during difficult periods of loss and grief,” said Bonnie Carroll, President and Founder, TAPS.
"National Guard, Reserve and their families are deployed as much or more than active-duty servicemembers, on behalf of our states and nation - but without the same support their active-duty counterparts have. The Sergeant First Class Clark TRICARE Reserve Parity Act ensures our National Guard and Reserve families are as cared for as their active-duty counterparts, when they lose their service members. We are proud to support this legislation and encourage greater support of our reserve forces,” said Kathy Roth-Douquet, Founder and CEO of Blue Star Families.
The House bill was introduced in April by U.S. Representative Joe Courtney (D-CT) and Trent Kelly (R-MS).
Video of Blumenthal’s in-state announcement with the Clark family can be downloaded here.