Lawmakers Push Trump for More Support to National Guard
May 23, 2020 | by James G. Dalton
More than 120 lawmakers signed a letter Friday urging the Trump administration to consider implementing several measures geared toward helping National Guard troops fighting the virus.
Requests include allowing guardsmen to be eligible for retirement benefits after their coronavirus deployment and allowing troops to keep federal status instead of labeling them as state active duty, so they can keep health care. Another request involves giving guardsmen flexibility in how they use leave time they accrue during the pandemic.
“We encourage you to be inclusive of pandemic response affiliated military service to ensure that National Guard personnel are not being inappropriately prevented from accessing the benefits earned by their service,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter addressed to President Trump, Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Peter Gaynor.
The lawmakers noted that the National Guard has played a crucial role in helping states with medical tasks and even conducting elections.
“The National Guard has been critical in executing the nation’s pandemic response efforts. Thousands of National Guard service members have been providing invaluable support for testing civilians and Guard personnel, logistics and warehouse distribution, planning for Emergency Operations Centers, homelessness outreach, and much more,” the lawmakers wrote.
The letter was spearheaded by the National Guard Association of the United States, which says it represents about 45,000 current and former National Guard officers.
Signatories include 95 Democrats, 29 Republicans and Sen. Bernie Sanders I-Vt.
National Guard coronavirus deployments are scheduled to end on June 24, but on Friday Defense Secretary Mark Esper said they could be extended if necessary.