Update from Tonya Schreiber, Deputy Assistant Administrator
FEMA leadership is committed to exploring options for providing health benefits for our Reservists. My name is Tonya Schreiber, I am one of the FEMA executives working on solutions for this longstanding issue.
First, I want to thank everybody that participated on the call on July 26th to discuss FEMA’s efforts so far to develop options for providing health benefits to Reservists. I greatly appreciate all of the questions, concerns, and comments expressed during the call. We obtained a lot of good information during the conversation that will help frame our approach to health benefits. At this point there are more questions than answers. There are an array of legal and budget issues we’re working through—if this were easy, then it would have been done by now.
Here’s a new and positive development: The Office of Personnel Management recently issued new regulations to extend coverage under the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) program to temporary firefighters and fire protection personnel working on wildland fires across the country. The recent regulation was limited to temporary wildland firefighters, who face unique hazards and risks to their health. However, if you read the regulation (http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2012-07-19/html/2012-17623.htm) you will see that OPM is also soliciting comments from the public regarding whether it should explicitly provide FEHB coverage to certain employees who are appointed pursuant to Section 306(b)(1) of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. 5149(b)(1)) to respond to major disasters and emergencies declared by the President—that means Reservists! We will be working closely with OPM in the near future on this and other health benefit options for Reservists.
We have committed to keeping you informed on the progress of this very important effort. Our goal is to address your questions and concerns. We ask that you remain patient as we may not always have immediate answers. Please keep an eye on the FEMA blog and check the FEMA website often for the latest updates. Together, we will continue to transform and improve the workforce.