By Debbie Rolen
September 15, 2013
“Fair is fair and right is right,” says Rahall
WELCH – Speaking at the Welch National Guard Armory and lauding the sacrifice and service of West Virginia veterans, U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) Friday announced the introduction of legislation he has sponsored to assist National Guard and Reserve members in accessing VA benefits and services.
“Members of the Guard and Reserve are more likely than their active-duty counterparts to have their VA claims denied. 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 and I hope to reduce the disproportionate denial of reservists VA claims,” said Rahall, who is a Member of the National Guard and Reserve Caucus.
Rahall introduced H.R. 2841, the Guard and Reserve Equal Access to Health Act (or GREAT Health Act), that would authorize a member of the Reserve Component to receive an end-of-service physical within 90 days of separation should that service member desire one. In addition, the bill requires the Department of Defense to provide the service member with a copy of the records from the physical.
Under current law, a Member of the Reserve Component must be put on orders to receive a physical prior to separating from the service, while Members of the Active Component are required by law to receive a separation physical. These separation physicals provide a vital record for the VA to use in establishing a service-connected disability and reflect injuries that may not have been readily identifiable after reserve units are demobilized once returning from overseas.
“To my way of thinking, if a Member of the Guard or Reserve is fit enough for the field of battle, then they sure as heck are fit enough for a field of medical tests. The men and women who volunteer to serve in the Guard and Reserve are given a medical examination to determine their eligibility for service, and so they should be afforded the same opportunity as their active-duty counterparts to document their physical condition and injuries upon leaving the service. Fair is fair and right is right when it comes to taking care of those who have sacrificed so much for the rest of us,” said Rahall.
“The Federal government has a sacred trust to care for our veterans. That is a trust I will always fight to defend, whether it is ensuring that they receive the training and tools they need in service, or the care and benefits they are owed when they come home again. It is precisely that spirit of caring, of giving, of committing to our neighbors in need that makes us unique, as West Virginians and Americans,” said Rahall.
H.R. 2841, which has been endorsed by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion, and the National Guard Association of the United States, has been referred to the House Armed Services Committee.