Congressman Max Rose, a captain in the New York Army National Guard, is livid after news the Trump administration plans to end federal financing for tens of thousands of Guard deployments just one day shy of those members becoming eligible for expanded benefits.
“They decide to cut it off at 89 days, ripping off our soldiers," he said. "Screwed is an understatement. And it is intentional!"
The story was first reported by Politico. To take advantage of early retirement and education benefits, a guard member must be deployed in a federalized capacity for at least 90 days.
The 90 days are cumulative over the career of the guard member, but federalized deployments aren’t frequent, usually happening during natural disasters - or, in this case, a crippling pandemic.
“Don’t even recruit these soldiers into the National Guard saying you’ll get these benefits after serving in an active duty capacity for 90 days," said Rose. "But what, now it’s a footnote now that Uncle Sam is going to rip you off by canceling your orders on the 89th day?”
Furthermore, Politico reports a recording of a meeting surfaced showing officials at FEMA, DoD, and the White House knew about the 89-day cutoff and that the deployment should end before too many members became eligible all at once.
Retired Brigadier General J. Roy Robinson is President of the National Guard Association of the United States, the nation’s advocate group for the Guard.
“When I went back and looked at it I said ‘wow, that’s quite a coincidence’ that this end date which happens to be in the middle of the week on a Wednesday at 89 days of service," said General Robinson.
He says he’s heard from thousands of concerned members across the country, “I know based on my experience seeing these types of issues unfold over and over again that there’s usually somebody in the process that knows full well what they’re doing,” he added.
We reached out to the White House, FEMA, and the Department of Defense for comment.
In a statement a National Guard Bureau spokesman tells me, “as in all national-level emergencies, FEMA, makes the final decisions regarding the length of time National Guard members are activated under federal orders…”
A spokesman for the Pentagon tells us the Department of Defense is working with FEMA to identify any future needs for the Guard to ensure the States and territories get assistance.
In a statement, a FEMA spokesperson says, “The federal government will fund 100 percent of the cost for [Title] 32 National Guard orders through June 24.”
Meanwhile, Rose and Robinson hope that date is extended, based on the needs of states rather than the cost of doing business.
“Don’t cut them off at 89 days when they’re just a couple of hours away from earning their benefits,” beseeched Rose.