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Letter to President Donald Trump, Mark Esper, Secretary of Defense, and Peter Gaynor, Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency - Leahy Is Part Of A Group Of Bipartisan Lawmakers Calling On Administration To Ensure Benefits To Guard Members Earned On COVID-19 Front Lines


By: Shelley Capito, Joe Manchin III, Tammy Baldwin, Bernie Sanders, Tim Kaine, Mark Warner, Ted Cruz, Bob Casey, Jr., Jeff Merkley, Ron Wyden, Sherrod Brown, Jacky Rosen, Catherine Cortez Masto, John Hoeven, Thom Tillis, Richard Burr, Steve Daines, Cindy Hyde-Smith, Tina Smith, Amy Klobuchar, Gary Peters, Susan Collins, Chris Van Hollen, Jr., Mike Crapo, Brian Schatz, Marco Rubio, Chris Coons, Richard Blumenthal, Cory Gardner, Michael Bennet, Kyrsten Sinema, Doug Jones, Gerry Connolly, Don Beyer, Jr., Abigail Spanberger, Donald McEachin, Rob Wittman, Filemon Vela, Jr., Joaquin Castro, Sheila Jackson Lee, Lizzie Fletcher, Jim Cooper, Scott DesJarlais, William Timmons, Jeff Duncan, Joe Wilson, Sr., Jim Langevin, Conor Lamb, Susan Wild, Chrissy Houlahan, Dwight Evans, Brian Fitzpatrick, Kurt Schrader, Peter DeFazio, Tom Cole, Anthony Gonzalez, Tim Ryan, Marcia Fudge, Marcia Kaptur, Brian Higgins, Joe Morelle, Anthony Brindisi, Paul Tonko, Kirsten Gillibrand, Carolyn Maloney, Max Rose, Pete King, Deb Haaland, Bill Pascrell, Jr., Frank Pallone, Jr., Andy Kim, Ann Kuster, Chris Pappas, Donald Bacon, Alma Adams, G.K. Butterfield, Jr., Roger Wicker, Vicky Hartzler, Dean Phillips, Angie Craig, Elissa Slotkin, Jack Bergman, Jared Golden, Jamie Raskin, David Trone, Anthony Brown, Dutch Ruppersberger, Stephen Lynch, Seth Moulton, Lori Trahan, Jim McGovern, Cedric Richmond, Jim Banks, Cheri Bustos, Cindy Axne, Tulsi Gabbard, Edward Case, Austin Scott, Alcee Hastings, Sr., Val Demings, Darren Soto, Michael Waltz, Eleanor Norton, Jim Himes, Joe Courtney, Ed Perlmutter, Jason Crow, Doug Lamborn, Joe Neguse, Diana DeGette, Lou Correa, Nanette Barragán, Gil Cisneros, Norma Torres, Grace Napolitano, Anna Eshoo, Ruben Gallego, Tom O'Halleran, Steve Womack, Terri Sewell, Patrick Leahy
Date: May 22, 2020
Location: Washington, DC

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 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 are encouraged by the recent change that will allow National Guard members to sell back unused leave without penalty or roll over accrued leave to another activated status. We ask that you continue to provide National Guard members with flexibility in how they may utilize leave accrued during the COVID-19 response, and ensure necessary federal funding to support the different leave usage options.
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.