National Guard deployed for COVID-19 given ‘hard stop’ order, ending eligibility for benefits

Around 40,000 US Army National Guardsmen are mobilized to help states with the pandemic, but the “hard stop” that ends their activation next month will fall 24 hours short of the needed time for many to become eligible for key benefits.

The arbitrary June 24 deadline will end at the 89 day mark for some when it comes to “duty credit,” just shy of the 90-day mark that qualifies many Guardsmen for early retirement and Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits.

While Politico attempted to imply the unlikelihood that Guardsmen would not get more activation time, the Army National Guard has yet to make a decision on the extension of deployment times for the coming weeks, let alone the projected resurgence coronavirus later this year.

“We’re not there yet on the determination,” the spokesperson, Wayne Hall, said. “Nobody can say where we’ll need to be more than a month down the road.”

According to Politico, the federal orders (known as Title 32) ensure activated Guardsmen get federal pay and benefits but puts them under local command. They are currently operating in 44 states, three US territories and the District of Columbia.

A 90-day service period can increase education benefits and shorten the two-decade retirement period by up to three months.

Some Guardsmen -and their representatives- aren’t happy about the one-day cutoff.

“It seemed kind of weird to me,” said retired Brig. Gen. J. Roy Robinson, president of the National Guard Association. “It’s a Wednesday. And it also coincides with 89 days of deployment for any soldiers who went on federal status at the beginning. I was getting all kinds of calls about it and I said, ‘It’s probably just a coincidence.’ But in the back of my mind, I know better. They’re screwing the National Guard members out of the status they should have.”

However, it should be noted that not everyone was activated to federal status at the same time. The cutoff time for accumulating the 90 days is in late September.

“If someone’s new in the Guard, they won’t be able to make that 90 days in one shot,” Hall acknowledged. “But if two months from now they’re called up for a hurricane or flood, they can make it then. The goal here is not to hurt Guardsmen.”

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