05.20.20

Peters Presses President Not to Prematurely End National Guard Deployments in Effort to Deny Guardsmen Benefits

Reported “Hard Stop” Decision Would End Critical National Guard Support One Day Short of Federal Benefit Eligibility for Guardsmen

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI), a former Lt. Commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve and a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, today pressed the Trump Administration not to end National Guard deployments to assist with Coronavirus pandemic response – one day short of when they would become eligible for key federal benefits. In a letter to President Trump, Peters highlighted how members of the National Guard – including in Michigan – are assisting in critical operations to support communities impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic. Peters expressed alarm that prematurely ending their deployment on June 24th before the 90 day threshold for federal benefits would not only hamper response to the pandemic but would be a slight to the work they are doing.

“Since early March, thousands of Guard personnel have been on full-time orders supporting a range of high-risk tasks, including decontaminating nursing homes, setting up field hospitals, COVID-19 testing, logistics and warehouse distribution, emergency planning, and more,” Peters wrote. “States remain dependent on the support of National Guard personnel and there are no indications these needs will disappear by June 24th.”

Currently, 991 Michigan guardsmen are on deployment in response to the Coronavirus pandemic. According to recent reporting, members of the National Guard that were deployed in late March to respond to the pandemic would face a “hard stop” on mobilizations effective June 24th. Ending Guard deployments on that date would mean thousands of members who first deployed will find themselves with only 89 days of duty credit, one short of the 90-day threshold for qualifying for early retirement and education benefits under the Post-9/11 GI bill. The State of Michigan will also lose key federal funding and be forced to transfer these guardsmen to state funds, if they are still needed.

“Those service members who would be cheated by this policy are serving their communities, their states, and their country,” Peters continued. “Their mobilization to support COVID-19 response efforts have already disrupted their lives and risked exposing them to the virus. Purposefully withholding benefits they have earned would be an insult and harm morale, recruiting, and retention within the National Guard.”

The full letter can be found below, or by clicking here:

Dear Mr. President,

I write to express concerns that deployments of National Guard members in COVID-19 response efforts may end prematurely, denying these service members benefits they would otherwise accrue. If Title 32 orders for guardsmen “hard stop” on June 24th, as has been reported, for many who were activated at the start of the pandemic it would be just one day shy of the 90 day threshold necessary to receive benefits for active duty service. These brave men and women in uniform would be shortchanged on benefits and pulled from the frontlines when their contributions are still urgently needed.

Members of the National Guard play a critical role in many states’ COVID-19 response efforts. More than 40,000 Guard members in 44 states, three territories, and the District of Columbia are on federal orders working for states. Since early March, thousands of Guard personnel have been on full-time orders supporting a range of high-risk tasks, including decontaminating nursing homes, setting up field hospitals, COVID-19 testing, logistics and warehouse distribution, emergency planning, and more.  Additionally, they help fill personnel gaps in understaffed and underfunded public health agencies.  States remain dependent on the support of National Guard personnel and there are no indications these needs will disappear by June 24th.

Ending orders on June 24th would leave thousands of guardsmen, including 991 in Michigan, with just 89 days of active duty. As you know, there is a 90-day threshold to qualify for education benefits and early retirement credit.  Those service members who would be cheated by this policy are serving their communities, their states, and their country. Their mobilization to support COVID-19 response efforts have already disrupted their lives and risked exposing them to the virus. Purposefully withholding benefits they have earned would be an insult and harm morale, recruiting, and retention within the National Guard.

Each state’s mission should dictate the duration of Guard mobilizations. Arbitrarily cutting deployments short would leave communities under-resourced and backfilling those capabilities may be costly and burdensome and localities. I urge you to continue Guard deployments as conditions on the ground require, both for the sake of individual guardsmen serving their communities and for the sake of the communities which depend on them.

 

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