News Releases

Senator Murray Takes Concerns of WA State National Guard Members to Chief of National Guard

Apr 11 2007

Murray also highlights TBI and PTSD in returning Guard and Reserve members

Listen to Senator Murray Question the National Guard Ghief

(Washington, D.C.) - Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) questioned Lt. General H. Steven Blum, Chief of the U.S. National Guard Bureau, on concerns she heard from Washington state Guard members just two days ago on a visit to Tacoma's Camp Murray National Guard Base. The questioning was part of a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on and the National Guard and Army Reserve's budgets.

While meeting with Guard members at Camp Murray on Monday, Murray heard their frustration at being given insufficient notice before being called to active duty. Murray heard how the lack of preparation time - in some cases just four weeks - poses significant problems in acquiring healthcare, preparing families for a loved one's departure, and informing employers.

During today's hearing, Murray reiterated these concerns including asking General Blum about efforts to provide Guard members the notification time needed to access TRICARE - the healthcare system that uninsured Guard members rely on for care.

Guard members are not able to access TRICARE until they are called to active duty. Murray is concerned that in some cases Guard members who are not given sufficient time to access TRICARE are being sent into the battlefield with preexisting health problems.

At today's hearing Murray said that because of the short notification period "those with invisible and visible wounds are not going to be ready to deploy."

Lt. General Blum responded that efforts have been made to "alert them as far out forward as we possibly could to give them some predictability in their lives."

Murray responded by saying that was not what she had heard at Camp Murray.

Invisible Wounds

Senator Murray also talked with General Blum about what she has heard from Guard and Reservists regarding Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

She said that they have told her that "They don't want to be labeled with PTSD or TBI, not because of their service but because of what they do outside of the service, they don't want it to impact their private employment." Murray said that she has heard concerns that such labels "could jeopardize their lives outside of the service."

General Blum said that he estimates that PTSD and TBI "affects 7 out of 10 of the wounded."

Senator Murray stressed that "We have to be especially vigilant with the invisible wounds of war."

Murray also discussed the need to provide all aspects of healthcare to Guard and Reservists at the same level of care as active duty soldiers.

Senator Murray has consistently worked to provide the National Guard the support it needs to perform its duties both at home and abroad. Murray is a co-sponsor of the National Guard Empowerment Act of 2007, S. 430, which would:

  • Add the National Guard Chief to the Joint Chiefs of Staff;

  • Elevate the rank of the National Guard Chief to four-star general;

  • Instruct the National Guard Chief to submit an annual plan for responding to disasters and terrorist acts;

  • Require DoD budgets to include separate amounts for Guard training and equipment for military assistance to civil authorities and domestic operations.

General Blum reiterated his support for this bill at the hearing held today.