Bustos, Rose, Haaland Lead More Than 70 Members in Call for Extension of National Guard COVID-19 Response Efforts After Curious Deadline Set

“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.”

Lawmakers Request Explanation After National Guard Response Efforts Set to Expire Just Shy of Time Required to Qualify for Certain Benefits

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Representatives Cheri Bustos (IL-17), Max Rose (NY-11) and Deb Haaland (NM-01) led a bipartisan call of more than 70 lawmakers urging the Department of Defense (DOD) to extend the activations of men and women in the National Guard for the duration of the President’s emergency and disaster declarations so they can continue to assist with the nation’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Current activations are set to expire on June 24, 2020.

The call comes after it was reported that the June 24 deadline would fall just short of the 90 days of service required for many members of the National Guard to qualify for certain federal benefits, including the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill. Today’s letter requests an explanation of the expiration date. In response to the call, the Trump administration is weighing whether to extend National Guard activations, according to reports Tuesday evening.

“This deadline would leave many Guardsmen just shy of the 90 days of service required to qualify for certain benefits, like the Post-9/11 GI Bill. While we hope this is a coincidence, not policy, we request an explanation of the choice of expiration date,” the members wrote. “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.”

“We urge you to continue to allow states to utilize one of the most effective tools at their disposal,” the members continued. “Cutting off your Department’s support to our states on June 24th would undermine our whole-of-nation response and shift the full burden to states whose budgets are already under great strain. We therefore ask that you consult with our governors to continue National Guard deployments for the duration of this crisis.”

You can view full text of the letter here and below:

May 20, 2020

The Honorable Mark Esper

Secretary

Department of Defense

1000 Defense Pentagon

Washington, DC 20301-1000

Dear Secretary Esper,

We appreciate your Department’s recent extension of Title 32, Section 502(f) activations of the National Guard. By now nearly every state, territory and the District of Columbia has federally funded Soldiers and Airmen in the fight against COVID-19. Unfortunately, however, the Department’s extension runs only until June 24, 2020; we urge you to consult with our governors and extend the Section 502(f) authorizations for the duration of the President’s emergency and disaster declarations.

Furthermore, we note that a recent Politico article highlighted the curious timing of the June 24th deadline. This deadline would leave many Guardsmen just shy of the 90 days of service required to qualify for certain benefits, like the Post-9/11 GI Bill. While we hope this is a coincidence, not policy, we request an explanation of the choice of expiration date. 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.

Those of us who have been to the frontlines of this crisis have seen the men and women of the National Guard deliver medical supplies to our hospitals, provide food to the hungry and care for our sick. Our states’ plans to reopen safely require their continued contributions. We cannot give into the temptation to declare victory over this virus prematurely and walk away from our responsibility to our states. We urge you to continue to allow states to utilize one of the most effective tools at their disposal. Cutting off your Department’s support to our states on June 24th would undermine our whole-of-nation response and shift the full burden to states whose budgets are already under great strain. We therefore ask that you consult with our governors to continue National Guard deployments for the duration of this crisis.

Sincerely,

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