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125 lawmakers urge Trump administration to support National Guard troops amid pandemic

125 lawmakers urge Trump administration to support National Guard troops amid pandemic
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More than 120 Republican and Democratic lawmakers have signed a letter urging the Trump administration to provide additional support to National Guard troops during the pandemic.

Among several requests, the lawmakers — comprised of 95 Democrats, 29 Republicans and one Independent — are requesting guardsmen be eligible for retirement benefits after their deployment on the front lines of the coronavirus crisis.

It also calls for the administration to maintain federal status for National Guard troops rather than transitioning them to state active duty to ensure access to health care, and offering guardsmen flexibility in how they use leave accrued during the pandemic. 

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"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," the lawmakers wrote in a letter addressed to President TrumpDonald John TrumpNearly 300 former national security officials sign Biden endorsement letter DC correspondent on the death of Michael Reinoehl: 'The folks I know in law enforcement are extremely angry about it' Late night hosts targeted Trump over Biden 97 percent of the time in September: study MORE, Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperOvernight Defense: Supreme Court to hear case on diversion of Pentagon funds to border wall | Biden campaign cutting retired general from ad after objection | Trump's arms control talks with Russia hit wall Biden campaign removing retired general from ad after his complaint Overnight Defense: Pentagon IG to audit use of COVID-19 funds on contractors | Dems optimistic on blocking Trump's Germany withdrawal | Obama slams Trump on foreign policy MORE and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Peter Gaynor.

The letter was spearheaded by the National Guard Association of the United States, which says it represents nearly 45,000 current and former National Guard officers. Signatories include figures such as progressive firebrand Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Goldman Sachs - Tipping point week for Trump, Biden, Congress, voters Biden and Schumer face battles with left if Democrats win big Push to expand Supreme Court faces Democratic buzzsaw MORE (I-Vt.) and conservative Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzSenate Republicans offer constitutional amendment to block Supreme Court packing 10 bellwether counties that could signal where the election is headed Conservatives seize on New York Post story to push Section 230 reform MORE (R-Texas), while a number of members of Congress who also serve in the National Guard signed the letter, including Reps. Mike Waltz (R-Fla.), Max RoseMax RoseCentrist Democrats got their COVID bill, now they want a vote Lawmakers fear voter backlash over failure to reach COVID-19 relief deal The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by The Air Line Pilots Association - Pence lauds Harris as 'experienced debater'; Trump, Biden diverge over debate prep MORE (D-N.Y.) and Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardHarris faces biggest moment in spotlight yet Ocasio-Cortez slams Tulsi Gabbard for amplifying ballot harvesting video Republicans call on DOJ to investigate Netflix over 'Cuties' film MORE (D-Hawaii).

This week Politico reported that FEMA said in an interagency call on May 12 that guardsmen will face a “hard stop” on June 24 to prevent them from reaching the 90 days of duty credit needed to qualify for early retirement and education benefits. Deployed in late March, most will hit 89 days of duty credit on June 24.

The lawmakers noted in their letter Friday that the National Guard has played a critical role in helping states with medical tasks and in some cases conducting elections. 

“The National Guard has been critical in executing the nation’s pandemic response efforts. Thousands of National Guard service members 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,” the lawmakers wrote.