Tester Demands Administration Reverse ‘Hard Stop’ that Denies Federal Benefits to More Than 40,000 Guardsmen Fighting COVID-19

Senator demands immediate action to ensure the men and women of the National Guard fighting the COVID-19 pandemic receive earned benefits

U.S. Senator Jon Tester is blasting the Administration’s move to issue a “hard stop” on the deployments of more than 40,000 Guardsmen and women, including nearly 200 from Montana, fighting the COVID-19 pandemic—just one day shy of them becoming eligible for critical federal benefits.

“This latest decision to cut deployments one day short of eligibility for federal benefits is further proof that this Administration does not properly value the service of our Guardsmen and women,” Tester wrote in a letter to President Trump. “Serving 89 days instead of 90 days blocks these men and women from receiving additional benefits toward their pensions, home loans, and education benefits. This does not even take into consideration all of the troops still on state active duty—often carrying out the same jobs as their peers on Title 32 orders, while responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. There is a clear, and deliberate, pattern of requiring servicemembers to do more, while actively seeking to deny them the benefits and compensation they have earned.”

To assist local and state governments in their response to the national health emergency, troops from the Army and Air National Guards across 54 states and territories, including Montana, have been put on state active duty or mobilized under Title 32 orders. These Guardsmen play a key role in the nation’s response to the national health emergency, distributing critical personal protective equipment and manning emergency operations centers in communities across the country. However, it took multiple calls from Congress, Governors, and the National Guard Association of the United States for the Administration to activate Title 32 orders, allowing these men and women to be eligible for benefits more commensurate with their service.

Tester highlighted, “Unfortunately, it seems as if this Administration is intent on nickel and diming these men and women at the expense of Americans suffering with COVID-19. At every turn the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) are asking more and more of these Guardsmen and women, but utilizing them in a way that cheapens their service and fails to appropriately reflect the burden they are asked to bear. Starting in late March, with the first memorandum approving Title 32 orders, every decision made by this Administration has shown a lack of support for these men and women. That is unacceptable.”

In Congress, Tester has been leading to charge to expand Title 32 authorities for the men and women of the National Guard on the front lines fighting the COVID-19 crisis. Following weeks of pressure, he successfully pushed the Administration to authorize Title 32 for National Guard members responding to the outbreak activated in several states. Tester has been fighting to ensure the Montana National Guard receives the support it deserves during the COVID-19 pandemic— he doubled down on his effort to grant Title 32 authorities for these Guardsmen in a letter to the President with the Montana congressional delegation.

Tester’s letter is available HERE.