Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen today announced the first-ever Reserve Health Care Summit to address the full spectrum of health care issues, entitlements and legislative policies affecting the readiness of U.S. military Reserve components in the post-Cold War world. The objective of the summit is to improve readiness of reservists, and ensure that those who become ill or injured as a result of service receive appropriate health care and medical benefits.
"This summit is about taking care of the people who make up nearly one half of our total military force," Cohen said. "I am committed to the seamless integration of the active and reserve components. To achieve a seamless force, we must update our medical policies to ensure that they support mission requirements as we enter the 21st Century. This summit is another step toward further integration."
The summit will be conducted in three phases and hosted by Deborah R. Lee, assistant secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs, in conjunction with Dr. Edward D. Martin, acting assistant secretary of Defense for Health Affairs.
The summit has three overarching goals: 1) Reach consensus on reserve component health care-related requirements; 2) Identify who will be responsible and accountable within DoD for meeting those requirements, and; 3) Identify how those requirements are budgeted within DoD.
"We need to find practical solutions to the most pressing health care problems confronting today's Reservists," Lee said. "This summit will help us do that by formulating a plan to meet both the immediate and long-term health care needs of reserve component members."
In Phase I, set to begin later this month in Washington, D.C., summit participants will evaluate prevailing laws and policy relating to Reserve Component health care. Topics for discussion will include the requirement for physical exams every five years, annual certification of physical condition, annual dental exams, immunizations, DNA collection, health surveillance, and health care support issues such as Line-of-Duty requirements for follow-up and continuing treatment. Summit participants will identify legislative and policy changes necessary to ensure members of the Reserve Components receive health care benefits that are consistent with the increased reliance on today's Reserve force.
"We have a vested interest in the health readiness of our Reserve Component personnel," said Dr. Martin. "While Reserve members are responsible for maintaining their health, we must help meet their health care needs by partnering the military health system, private insurers and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Reservists are vital to our armed forces, and we need to help take care of all our people."
Phase II will begin in late December and will address incapacitation and disability issues. Reserve Component access to Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits and programs will be the focus of Phase III, beginning in mid-January 1998.
Recognizing the increased reliance on the Reserve Components in recent years, Cohen said, "We must ensure their medical readiness to achieve a truly integrated Total Force. I am pleased that this summit is a partnership effort with the DoD, the private sector and VA all working together," Cohen said.
For more information, contact the office of the assistant secretary of defense for Reserve Affairs - Lt. Col. Terry Jones at (703) 695-3620.