Tens of thousands of National Guard troops responding to the coronavirus pandemic could see their deployments halted one day short of qualifying for a host of veterans benefits, according to a new report from Politico released Tuesday.
The newspaper said federal officials in an interagency call last week acknowledged that the Guard deployments are scheduled to stop on June 24, one day short of the 90 days needed to qualify for certain retirement and GI Bill benefits.
More than 40,000 Guard members are currently serving under Title 32 orders, the largest domestic employment of the force since the Hurricane Katrina disaster in 2005.
State officials have petitioned federal leaders to continue the deployments, arguing the military personnel are needed for continued response to the fast-spreading virus. More than 90,000 Americans have died from coronavirus-related complications in the last three months.
The White House’s original orders activating Guard members had been scheduled to expire at the end of May, but officials extended that to late June upon request from multiple state and congressional lawmakers. No reason was given for the new date, which lands on a Wednesday.
Administration officials did not respond to Politico’s request for comment.
National Guard members who have additional deployments within the same fiscal year could gain enough time cumulatively to qualify for early retirement or GI Bill benefits.
As of this weekend, more than 1,100 guardsmen had been diagnosed with coronavirus, many of whom were deployed for pandemic response missions.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.