FARGO, N.D. – National Guard and Reserve soldiers deserve better health care and other benefits from the federal government, said North Dakota Democrat Rep. Earl Pomeroy.
In his party's weekly radio address Saturday, Pomeroy said Congress should pass a bill he introduced to provide them increased benefits.
"These soldiers don't want out," Pomeroy said. "They just want to make sure families don't suffer as a result of their service."
The National Guard and Reserve Fairness Act would provide for increased access to TRICARE, the military health care system, and more education benefits through the GI Bill, Pomeroy said. The legislation also has incentives for employers who continue to pay Guard or Reserve soldiers after they are deployed.
"At a time when we are asking so much of the members of our National Guard and Reserve, we have to take action to increase these benefits provided in return for their courageous service," Pomeroy said.
Forty percent of National Guard and Reserve soldiers between the ages of 19 and 35 do not have health insurance, Pomeroy said.
Both Democrats and Republicans in Congress have expressed worries about the stress on reservists. Rep. Duncan Hunter of California, Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said last month that the ratio of Reserve to active-duty soldiers in Iraq was increasing.
It's the first time Pomeroy has been selected to deliver the radio address. Some of his colleagues suggested he talk about the No Child Left Behind Act to coincide with the start of school.
"I said I would do it if I get to talk about the National Guard and Reserve Fairness Act," he said after taping the address at the Fargo American Legion club. "This is my mission."