Separation physicals, Rahall said, provide vital records for the VA to use in documenting a disability was connected to service in the National Guard. Those physicals should also identity many injuries that were not easily identifiable when reserve units were demobilized after returning from overseas missions.
Hoyer said, "When September 11, 2001 came, we didn't hesitate to call the National Guard for both domestic missions and overseas missions.
"Why would we not offer them the same opportunities to get the physicians they need to make sure they get the appropriate level of benefits when they leave?"
National Guardsmen, Hoyer stressed, who have played such a critical role in protecting national security since 9/11, "are one of the most cost-effective assets this nation has -- a third of the cost of the active [military] component.
"We are $17 trillion in debt and we've got to reduce the overhead costs for the Department of Defense."
Hoyer said one DOD financial official recently said half of his department's costs for fiscal year 2014 "will be personnel costs. So why would we not continue to foster reserves that are cost effective and give them the same rights and privileges that the other components have?
"This is an issue that is clearly important to the Guard and reserves. We appreciate, as always, when our members of Congress, our legislature, our governor and our elected officials at all levels -- and our citizens -- step up and support the National Guard's cause. These people go out and defend the country and the state. It is up to the citizens to defend them," Hoyer said.
Rahall said, "The men and women who volunteer to serve in the Guard and Reserve are given a medical examination to determine their eligibility for service.
"They should be afforded the same opportunity as their active-duty counterparts to document their physical condition and injuries upon leaving the service."
The Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion and National Guard Association have all endorsed Rahall's new legislation, which has been referred to the House Armed Services Committee.Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjny...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.