House Democrat to introduce legislation allowing governors to extend National Guard deployments

Rep. Annie Kuster (D-N.H.) will introduce legislation Friday that would allow governors to extend federal deployments of their National Guard units through the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency to help troops qualify for benefits.

The National Guard COVID-19 Response Stability Act is a companion bill to legislation Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) introduced in the Senate and would ensure that National Guard members are deployed long enough to reach the 90-day federal duty requirement to garner early retirement and education benefits.

The bill comes in response to the Trump administration’s decision to end the deployment of 40,000 National Guard troops who were helping with coronavirus relief on June 24, leaving most one day short of the 90-day requirement.

“Deliberately preventing the brave citizen soldiers and airmen of the National Guard from receiving benefits by cutting COVID-19 response deployments one day short of the 90-day benchmark is a new low, even for the Trump Administration,” Kuster said in a statement. 

“The Trump Administration’s decision to end these deployments and keep these brave men and women from receiving benefits for their service is unpatriotic and will bring an early end to the critical support that the National Guard is providing to communities across the country.”

National Guard members must be enlisted for 20 years to qualify for a pension at age 60, but for every 90 days served in a federal emergency, they are able to speed up retirement by 3 months and qualify for reduced tuition at public universities under the post-9/11 GI bill. 

Governors and Democratic lawmakers have already requested the Trump administration extend deployments until the end of the year to try to prevent “a possible second wave of infection.”

The administration’s decision to halt the deployments after 89 days has drawn swift rebukes from Democrats, with Rep. Max Rose (D-N.Y.), a member of the National Guard himself, calling it “unpatriotic [and] economically unsound.”

“Intentionally ending orders one day short of a deadline for National Guard soldiers to receive benefits for their heroic sacrifices is the definition of heartless,” he said Tuesday. “In peace time we should never balance our budget on the backs of our soldiers.”

Tags Coronavirus Max Rose Tammy Duckworth

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