When people think of the military they think of fighter jets, tanks, aircraft carriers, and missiles. No matter how advanced our technology gets, the most important thing about the U.S. Military is the people. Servicemembers are the bravest among us. These men and women volunteer to put themselves in harm’s way, potentially making the ultimate sacrifice, in defense of the sacred freedoms we hold dear in this country. Taking care of servicemembers and their families is not only our duty, but it is critical for allowing them to focus on the mission at hand protecting and defending the United States of America.
When a deployed servicemember’s child gets the flu, for example, that family should be confident that the Military Health System is going to provide the care they need when they need it. My family and I lived with the Military Health System for nearly three decades, so we, along with millions of other military families, have seen just how inefficient and frustrating the system can be. If someone like me, a Rear Admiral and Chief Medical Advisor to the leader of the free world at the time, had trouble getting a doctor’s appointment how do you think this system is serving a young, enlisted airman who is recently married and expecting a child? Not well, I can assure you.
President Biden has proposed $753 billion in defense spending for the upcoming fiscal year, $54 billion of which is for military healthcare. The Military Health System is responsible for 9.7 million eligible beneficiaries, including active-duty servicemembers, military retirees, dependent survivors, certain Reserve Component members, and all their families; yet most taxpayers do not realize how much of their money is being spent on a system that consistently fails the people for whom it is intended to provide.
When I threw my hat in the ring for Congress, I knew that this was an issue I wanted to bring attention to. Making sure servicemembers and their families never experience the failures of the Military Health System again is an important priority for me. When I was appointed to the House Armed Services Committee, I fought to be on the Military Personnel Subcommittee because I knew that is where I could apply my experience to fix the broken system and improve the quality of life for military families.
One of the first bills I introduced in Congress falls under the jurisdiction of the Military Personnel Subcommittee the bipartisan Elaine M. Checketts Military Families Act. Most people do not know that if a servicemember is on pre-approved family leave and their child passes away, they automatically lose that leave. Civilian federal employees already have the option to keep their pre-approved leave, so I firmly believe our military heroes deserve the same option and my legislation will give them that choice.
Over the last few years, the Military Health System has undergone a wide range of reforms aimed at improving the quality of care, increasing military readiness, and ensuring access for all beneficiaries. In my role on the Military Personnel Subcommittee, I will be actively involved in overseeing this transformation to a better, more effective Military Health System.
The work ahead will not be easy or rapid, but I am committed to working with Republicans and Democrats alike to provide the Military community with commonsense policies and resources that support servicemembers and their families. Since I was sworn into office in January, I have demonstrated my commitment to working on a bipartisan basis by introducing multiple defense-related bills with my Democrat colleagues. I fully intend on working both these pieces of legislation and continued reform of the Military Health System into this year’s National Defense Authorization Act.
• U.S. Representative Ronny Jackson, Texas Republican, served in the U.S. Navy for 29 years, retiring as a Rear Admiral in 2019. While serving on the battlefield in Iraq, he was called back to the states to serve in the White House Medical Unit during President George W. Bush’s Administration. Dr. Jackson went on to lead the White House Medical Unit as Physician to the President during the Obama and Trump Administrations and was appointed Chief Medical Advisor and Assistant to the President in January 2019 by President Trump. In addition to the House Armed Services Committee, he also serves on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.