New legislation means new benefits for members of the National Guard
Satisfied that the National Guard had secured the inauguration, Congress sent members of the Guard to the parking lot to rest. But this contradicts the adoption of legislation that has provided new benefits to the Guard. JC Cardinale is the Director of Legislative Affairs at the National Guard Association of the United States, and he has joined Federal Drive with Tom Temin for more details.
Tom Temin: Mr. Cardinale, good to have you.
JC Cardinale: Okay, thanks for inviting me.
Tom Temin: First of all, give us the impression that you are hearing from members. What is the temperature, so to speak, of the National Guard right now? Surely they’ve been in the headlines a lot lately, and you know, they liked and hugged for securing the Capitol, and then they were directed to the garage. And then they argue about it upstairs. What’s going on with the morale of the Guard?
JC Cardinale: You know, I still think morale is good throughout the National Guard. I mean, obviously it’s been probably one of the busiest years and a half for the Guard, at least in recent memory, especially with COVID and natural disasters, and we still have missions overseas. . Now add the DC mission. I think the guards take pride in the work they do and you know they keep really busy. I think right now we have something like 60,000 guards on order.
Tom Temin: Wow, and go over for us the fact that these are people who are not in uniform 24/7, 365 days a year, but come from their work and their life to do this job. .
JC Cardinale: Yeah, absolutely. The vast majority of the force is what we call an M-Day force, which basically means they do one weekend a month and then usually a few weeks in the summer to train. But yes, no, they all have full time jobs and lives and families that they are uprooted to meet. And some of those soldiers have now received multiple orders this year. We have soldiers here in the city now, who were here in the city in July for the summer unrest.
Tom Temin: And given all that the Guard has been called upon to do and it’s on weekdays, of course, do you feel that the employers of the Guard in their daytime job are generally willing to accept deployments that might take them away? working for several days during the week?
JC Cardinale: You know, it’s always a stress point for how hard we try to deal with employers. We have always found that most employers are patriotic Americans and support the mission of the Guard. But it’s stressful, especially for small businesses, if somebody goes here for three weeks, then maybe four weeks later, and maybe they have a three-week school. And that’s really a point of stress, especially some of our employers who have multiple guards in the same unit that could be employed, where an employer could see 20% of their workforce go missing for a month, which is pretty stressful.
Tom Temin: And have members of the Guard been affected by some of the challenges of employment or unemployment because they might be working for small businesses that have been stressed by the pandemic?
JC Cardinale: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, we’ve seen it throughout the wars as well, where the guards are so deployed that some employers, I think, have issues with the employment of guards, which is part of the reason why there are legislation to maybe help with taxes. benefits and things like that to better encourage employment.
Tom Temin: All right, let’s go to the bill that Congress passed, I guess, at the end of the last session. And this is not the NDAA but a bill for veterans and the military. Tell us about this bill and what it gave to members of the National Guard?
JC Cardinale: Yeah, absolutely. This was probably one of the biggest veterans bills I’ve seen in a while where they took a lot of little bills, put them together and passed like a veterans omnibus. So it wasn’t the National Guard at all, but there were some really important pieces for us. Probably the most important being that he opened up VA Home loans to guards on what we would call Title 32. So no full federal orders, like all the guards you currently see on the news that respond to COVID. That time before would not have qualified them for veterans home loans. Now it’s open to them, which is a really big deal.
Tom Temin: Okay and what is your sense of demand for this?
JC Cardinale: Oh, I think it will be high. We don’t know exactly how many will take it. But obviously the VA home loan program is extremely popular for veterans and currently serving guards, both.
Tom Temin: And do the guards tend to be people recently released from the military? Are they veterans or are they usually from another vector?
JC Cardinale: I would say generally from another vector. We have a lot of guards who come right in and that’s where they start their military careers, without necessarily leaving active service. And then we have multigenerational guard families where a soldier can be in the same unit as his father, and maybe even grandfather. So it’s really a family affair.
Tom Temin: We speak with JC Cardinale. He is director of legislative affairs at the National Guard Association of the United States. And there was transitional medical coverage for Guardsmen and Airmen under the National Defense Authorization Act, right?
JC Cardinale: It’s correct. And that was one of our big initiatives, I’m sure you’ll remember the summer, that issue where we were deploying guards in really, serious COVID situations, but not providing health care. This has finally been fixed, which brings us to some of our top priorities for the coming year. But one of the big things we wanted to make sure was that when they pulled out of orders they still received military health care from the government for six months, just in case there was an infection afterwards or something like that.
Tom Temin: Almost a COBRA so to speak, for the guards.
JC Cardinale: Yes something like that.
Tom Temin: And what are your legislative priorities for the new session?
JC Cardinale: Our number one priority will therefore be to provide health and dental care to the Guard and the Reserve. Right now they are treated almost like federal employees, so they have access to a subsidized health care plan. We strongly believe that if you are in the service of the military, you should receive free health care similar to active duty. We see this as a problem of preparation. Right now we have to send troops for a medical exam, but not really for health care. And then when we try to deploy, we spend a lot of money in the last 30 days getting them ready to go. We just think that if they had persistent healthcare throughout their career, it would be extremely beneficial, as well as great for employers knowing that they don’t need to put them on their healthcare program. health.
Tom Temin: In other words, they could go through TRICARE?
JC Cardinale: Exactly.
Tom Temin: And is there a legislative tendency to want to accept this idea? What kind of vibe do you get from committees?
JC Cardinale: You know, it will be interesting. It’s going to be expensive. We believe there will be cost savings through efficiency gains. But you know, it will come at a cost. And so it will be interesting this year to see what the real appetite is. But I really feel like on Capitol Hill that, you know, there’s kind of a new understanding of what the Guard really does and how it’s not really the 90s Guard anymore, and we have to stick with that. legally accountable.
Tom Temin: And what do you think of the Defense Department’s thinking about this idea of adding so many more people to a TRICARE system that costs them a lot of money, as you pointed out?
JC Cardinale: Yeah, I mean, I think there will be understandable concerns about, you know, the further expansion of this program, but we see it as a preparation issue. And I will say that we are also spending a lot of money on the medical front by not doing it. Because right now all we do is check-up. And then we don’t actually solve the problems.
Tom Temin: JC Cardinale is Director of Legislative Affairs for the National Guard Association of the United States. Thank you very much for joining me.
JC Cardinale: Great, thank you.
Tom Temin: We will post this interview on FederalNewsNetwork.com/FederationDrive. Listen to Federal Drive on demand. Subscribe to Apple podcasts or wherever you get your shows.