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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 TrumpSanders: Reinstating SALT deduction 'sends a terrible, terrible message' GOP braces for wild week with momentous vote One quick asylum fix: How Garland can help domestic violence survivors MORE, Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperOvernight Defense: Former Navy secretary reportedly spent .4M on travel | Ex-Pentagon chief Miller to testify on Jan. 6 Capitol attack | Austin to deliver West Point commencement speech Trump's Navy secretary spent over M on travel during pandemic: report Court declines to dismiss Amazon challenge against JEDI decision 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 SandersSanders: Reinstating SALT deduction 'sends a terrible, terrible message' Democrats hit crucial stretch as filibuster fight looms GOP is consumed by Trump conspiracy theories MORE (I-Vt.) and conservative Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzCheney drama exposes GOP's Trump rifts Pollster Frank Luntz: 'I would bet on' Trump being 2024 GOP nominee Tim Scott sparks buzz in crowded field of White House hopefuls 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 RoseOvernight Defense: Austin takes helm at Pentagon | COVID-19 briefing part of Day 1 agenda | Outrage over images of National Guard troops in parking garage Austin sworn in as nation's first Black Pentagon chief We lost in November — we're proud we didn't take corporate PAC money MORE (D-N.Y.) and Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardFox News says network and anchor Leland Vittert have 'parted ways' New co-chairs named for congressional caucus for millennials Tulsi Gabbard blasts new House rules on gender neutral language as 'height of hypocrisy' 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.