WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and combat veteran, today introduced the Health Equity and Access for Returning Troops and Servicemembers (HEARTS) Act. The HEARTS Act works to give medically retired servicemembers more flexibility when choosing their health insurance plans, and rectifies an unintended burden currently plaguing wounded servicemembers who return to work after recovering from their injuries.

Medically retired servicemembers are eligible to enroll in TRICARE upon returning home. If the servicemember has sustained injuries that prevent them from returning to work, they then are able to receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). After two years, those servicemembers receiving SSDI payments become eligible for Medicare. Once a veteran is Medicare eligible, they are no longer eligible for traditional TRICARE. In order to keep the TRICARE supplement, TRICARE for Life, veterans must enroll in Medicare Part B.

Under current law, if a veteran is able to return to work, SSDI payments cease, but the veteran remains Medicare eligible for a minimum of 8.5 years. Since these veterans are still Medicare eligible, they are unable to return to their traditional, more affordable, TRICARE plan and forced to pay the higher rates associated with Medicare.

The HEARTS Act rectifies this financial burden by allowing veterans returning to work to opt-out of Medicare Part B and return to their TRICARE plan of choice when SSDI payments cease. Additionally, it allows these wounded servicemembers to maintain access to TRICARE for Life even if they opt-out of Medicare Part B.

“Our veterans deserve every opportunity for a smooth transition back into civilian life,” Senator Ernst said. “The HEARTS Act gives medically retired servicemembers returning to work access to the health care benefits they were originally entitled to, and have rightfully earned, after selflessly serving our country.”

The HEARTS Act was also introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Representative Sam Johnson (R-TX) and is cosponsored by the Chairman Phil Roe (R-TN) and Ranking Member Tim Walz (D-MN) of the House Veterans Affairs Committee.

To read the full text of the bill, click here.