Congressional Veterans’ Affairs Leadership Introduce Bill to Expand Benefits for National Guard Members Responding to COVID-19

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.), chairman and ranking member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee (SVAC), along with Representatives Mark Takano (D-Calif.) and Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.), chairman and ranking member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee (HVAC), introduced the COVID-19 Benefits for Active Duty Servicemembers, the Reserve Components, and their Survivors Act of 2020 that would expand survivor benefits for members of the National Guard who are activated under federal orders in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This legislation also creates an avenue for guardsmen to apply for disability compensation if they develop a disability or illness as a result of exposure to COVID-19.

“All of our servicemembers, whether active duty or Reserve Components, have stepped up and served their fellow Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic, risking exposing themselves to the virus,” said SVAC Chairman Moran. “Today, I am introducing this bipartisan, bicameral bill with my colleagues to make certain that any servicemember who dies or is medically impacted due to their service during this pandemic, receives the full VA benefits they deserve. I will work to get this legislation passed and signed into law as quickly as possible to provide servicemembers and their families more certainty during this time.”

“Members of the National Guard and Reserve always stand ready to protect our communities when disaster strikes,” said SVAC Ranking Member Tester. “And in return for their service, we have an obligation to provide them with the benefits they’ve earned. That’s why my colleagues and I crafted our bipartisan bill to make it easier for Guardsmen to file disability claims in the event they get sick, or die fighting on the front lines of this pandemic. Now more than ever, we must do the right thing by serving those who serve us during this unprecedented time.”

“This legislation for a COVID-19 presumption is an easy fix to ensure that we care for the servicemen and women in the National Guard and Reserves who are stepping up during the COVID-19 pandemic to care for us,” said HVAC Chairman Takano. “I’m proud to work with my friend, Ranking Member Roe, and our Senate colleagues to cover as many servicemembers as possible and ensure the surviving family members of servicemembers who pass away after contracting COVID-19 during their service will be cared for by VA. This is a good first step, and I’m committed to working with my colleagues to uphold our duty to care for all those who borne the battle and their families.”

“Since the beginning of this pandemic, the men and women of our active duty military, National Guard, and Reserve component have put themselves in harm’s way to help heal their communities and our country from the devastating effects of the pandemic,” said HVAC Ranking Member Roe. “I am proud to introduce this bill today with my friends on both sides of the aisle – in the House and the Senate – to ensure that those veterans are able to receive the VA benefits they are entitled to if they get sick with COVID-19 during their service and that their families can access survivor benefits in the event of their death. I look forward to considering this bill in short order as we continue working to support our nation’s heroes in this extraordinary moment in time.”

"TAPS is grateful to Senators Moran and Tester for introducing the COVID-19 Benefits for Active Duty Servicemembers, the Reserve Components, and their Survivors Act of 2020 today to ensure survivors of National Guard members activated under state orders, who die of COVID-19 related causes, receive the same survivor benefits as their Active Duty counterparts,” said Bonnie Carroll, President and Found of the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors. “We appreciate the Committee's proactive stance to support National Guard families during these unprecedented times."

This bill is cosponsored by Sens. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).