CHARLESTON, W.VA. -- Rep. Nick J. Rahall, D-W.Va., said Friday he has introduced legislation to make it easier for National Guard and Reserve members to access their Veterans Administration health benefits and services.
"Members of the Guard and Reserve are more likely than their active-duty counterparts to have their VA claims denied," Rahall said, speaking at the National Guard Armory in Welch on Friday,
"My bill aims to fix that by ensuring a proper medical examination before a reservist or guardsmen separates from the service, which will help to ensure parity between reserve and active-duty components."
Major Gen. Jim Hoyer said the new legislation "is something that we in the West Virginia National Guard support. This is also an issue at the national level. The National Guard Association supports it."
Hoyer said the new legislation "doesn't sound like much on its face. But the way the system is structured right now, a Guardsman who separates off from service does not get a separation physical unless somebody specifically has the money to order that."
Separation physical examinations are "the baseline used by the military and the VA. We have had individuals who have had health issues that could have been resolved more quickly by baseline physicals. They ought to have access to these physicals," Hoyer said.
The new Guard and Reserve Equal Access to Health Act will authorize any member of a National Guard Reserve to receive "an end-of-service physical" within 90 days of leaving the National Guard.
The GREAT Health Act also requires the Department of Defense to provide service members with copies of all records from their physical examinations.
Under current law, any member of a "Reserve Component" of the National Guard must be given orders to receive a physical before leaving the service. But the law requires all members of an "Active Component" to receive a separation physical.