Federal lawmakers from both parties have urged the Trump administration to extend the deployment of national guard troops to states to combat the coronavirus pandemic, which would allow thousands of guardsmen to become eligible for retirement and educational benefits.
A senior FEMA official said on an interagency call that President Trump plans to allow the deployment of national guard troops expire on June 24th, leaving the first group of guardsmen deployed one day short of meeting the required 90 emergency service days to attain certain retirement and educational benefits.
But the option remains for the administration to avoid a ‘hard stop’ and extend the deployment, which some House members are urging them to do.
Over a dozen Congressional Democrats told Forbes they support an extension, with Representative Max Rose (D-N.Y.), a guardsman who was deployed to build a hospital in Staten Island, slamming a ‘hard stop’ to the deployment as “heartless.”
Representative Don Bacon (R-Nebr.) told Forbes he believes states should be allowed to decide when deployments will end and that he expects “Guardsmen will receive the benefits they are due based on their period of service.”
On Wednesday, a bipartisan group of 75 House members sent a letter to Defense Secretary Mark Esper urging him to consult with governors and extend the deployment for the duration of the president’s emergency declaration.
“To battle this unprecedented crisis, we asked our neighbors in uniform to serve our nation in its time of need, and we hope the Department has not—and will not—nickel-and-dime its Soldiers and Airmen,” the representatives wrote, adding that the states are still in need of the National Guard’s services.
The National Guard has been central to the government’s efforts to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. The Trump administration in March agreed to have the federal government pay for the costs of deployment to give relief to cash-strapped states grappling with the virus. The troop count has gradually increased as the crisis has worsened, with guardsmen setting up and sanitizing hospitals, transporting bodies and enforcing travel restrictions.
One Republican lawmaker poured cold water on the assertion that a ‘hard stop’ to the deployment would prevent National Guard workers from getting their benefits. Representative Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), a guardsman, tweeted “assuming they went to basic training and that was at least 1 day long, they get the GI Bill. 90 days total not at once. If in their 6 year commitment they do one more day of title 32 or 10, they get the three month reduced retirement.” However, the National Guard Association told Politico that the substantive impact would be to deprive some guardsmen of their benefits.
41,600. At last count in late April, the Military Times reported that there were 41,600 national guard troops deployed to the states. Politico reports that 1,158 have been diagnosed with coronavirus.
Source: Forbes Business