Congressman Tim Ryan Calls for Enhanced Benefits for National Guard Members Deployed in Response to COVID-19
Youngstown, Ohio – Congressman Tim Ryan today joined a bipartisan group of both House and Senate members in sending a letter to President Trump, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Pete Gaynor asking that National Guard members deployed to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic receive the benefits they deserve when they return to state service. The Trump Administration currently plans on ending National Guard deployment on June 24, just one day before thousands of servicemembers would receive additional education and retirement benefits under the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
“This is the definition of heartless. Just one day before thousands of national guardsmen are set to receive additional education and retirement benefits, the Trump Administration plans to end their deployment. Let me repeat, this Administration is ending their deployment one day before they would receive additional benefits. This is not a coincidence. The Trump Administration is ending their important mission to combat the COVID-19 pandemic in order to save a couple bucks on the backs of our servicemembers. They should be ashamed of themselves,” said Congressman Tim Ryan.
National Guard members have provided logistical support, humanitarian relief and medical care to communities across the country. Here in my District, the Ohio National Guard has served with distinction by providing food to those in need through their service at Second Harvest Food Bank in Youngstown and the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank. The Guard have also partnered with local hospitals and state agencies to assess potential sites for alternate medical facilities.
“Our national success in flattening the curve will not be possible without the contributions of the National Guard. We believe it is critical to ensure that all National Guard personnel are taken care of during this crisis and after, recognizing that the threat of COVID-19 will not immediately go away and the National Guard is likely to be called on again in the future,” wrote Ryan and the lawmakers in their letter.
The letter has the endorsement of the National Guard Association of the United States (NGAUS).
Read the full letter below:
Dear Mr. President, Secretary Esper, and Administrator Gaynor:
We write today to raise a number of issues impacting the National Guard personnel deployed in support of the fight against Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).
The National Guard has been critical in executing the nation’s pandemic response efforts. Thousands of National Guard servicemembers 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. We also recognize that National Guard servicemembers have been supporting state efforts in high threat and high risk areas, namely, medical support to prisons; frontline testing at hot spots and critical infrastructure locations; supporting tracing operations; and providing direct care to COVID-19 positive citizens, including at care facilities like Veterans Living Centers and homeless populations.
Our national success in flattening the curve will not be possible without the contributions of the National Guard. We believe it is critical to ensure that all National Guard personnel are taken care of during this crisis and after, recognizing that the threat of COVID-19 will not immediately go away and the National Guard is likely to be called on again in the future.
Therefore, we urge you to consider our recommendations for addressing the following concerns immediately.
- Federal Status: We ask that you consider keeping all National Guard servicemembers supporting the COVID-19 mission on 502(f)(2) status rather than transitioning to State Active Duty (SAD) orders regardless of future FEMA reimbursement. This will ensure robust healthcare commensurate with the work they are performing is available. This will also ensure they are able to continue support to the nation’s effort without uncertainty of status. If orders are to be extended on a month-to-month basis, we ask that all orders are 31 days or longer in duration and that the announcement of extensions be made early in the month in order to allow for preparation by each state’s leadership teams.
- Leave: We ask that you consider ensuring that National Guard members not be required to take leave during their Department of Defense-required quarantine. Additionally, we ask that you provide options for Guard members to either sell back unused leave without penalty or roll over accrued leave to another activated status, if needed due to external constraints on taking their leave in conjunction with current orders. Finally, we ask you to consider allowing leave accrued to roll over to another activated time and ensure there is necessary federal funding to support.
- Healthcare: We ask that you ensure the National Guard members activated in support of COVID-19 are provided Transition Assistance Management Program (TAMP) benefits for 180 days after coming off orders, similar to their Reserve counterparts.
- GI Bill and Retirement Benefits: We believe that the service of National Guard members during this unprecedented emergency is deserving of the recognition intended by educational and retirement benefit programs in the spirit in which they were created. 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.
We are proud of the incredible contributions of the National Guard. They have been a critical team member in the nation’s fight against COVID-19. We welcome your support in ensuring they are kept safe, healthy, and receive the benefits they deserve.