Herrera Beutler bill would let reserve medical officers defer retirement

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Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, introduced a bill that would allow reserve medical officers to defer their mandatory retirement if the military determines a need for their continued service.

The Reserve Medical Officer Parity Act, introduced Tuesday, gives military department secretaries authority to postpone a reserve officer’s retirement by granting the same extension offered to officers in the regular commissioned military.

Currently, all reserve medical officers are required to retire at 68. In the Army, about half of the total medical officers are in the reserves.

“Congress should give the military the tools it needs to ensure troop readiness, and an important part of that is providing our service members with quality medical care in a timely manner while serving,” Herrera Beutler said in a media release. “When the military has a need for more doctors, medical specialists and surgeons, they should be able to extend reserve medical officers’ service to help meet that need.”

The bill would allow each branch of the military to extend a medical reserve officer’s retirement age past 68 if they determine a need for more medical personnel. The status and length of an individual officer’s deferment would be determined on a case-by-case basis.

Angie Riesterer, a spokesperson for Herrera Beutler’s office, clarified the officer would need to give his or her consent to continue serving if the military chooses to retain the officer past retirement age. It wouldn’t be a top-down decision.

According to the media release from Herrera Beutler, the issue of forced retirement was first raised by Dr. Mike Kelly, a Vancouver surgeon who served in the reserves.

“I served as a surgeon in the reserves beginning after 9/11 with multiple overseas deployments and continued actively in my local hospital unit,” Kelly said in the press release. “When I applied to extend my service after the retirement age, I was told that the law governing military matters prevented me from continuing in service to the country, the Army and our unit.

“Herrera Beutler’s bill is important for those in the reserves who are capable and want to continue serving their country,” Kelly continued.

The Reserve Medical Officer Parity Act is the latest of the congresswoman’s narrowly targeted bills designed to improve military affairs.

Earlier this year, Herrera Beutler introduced H.R. 1448, which would expand a home mortgage loan program to active-duty Purple Heart recipients.

The legislation would waive the funding fee, up to $10,000, for a Department of Veterans Affairs home loan program among current military members who were wounded in action. Currently, the fee waiver is only available to veterans, not active-duty service members. The change would affect around 8,000 people nationwide.

Before that, Herrera Beutler’s Protecting Military Honor Act would have established a confidential process among military discharge review boards, so that sexual assault survivors who served in the military could contest the terms and characterization of their discharge. The bill has been sitting in committee since July 2017.


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