White House previously indicated plans to end service days short of guard members being eligible for federal benefits
Congressman Brian Higgins, D-NY-26, welcomed news that the Trump administration is extending federal orders assigning National Guard members to COVID-19 response through mid-August. The president had previously indicated plans to end the current order when it expires on June 24, leaving National Guard members serving on the frontlines of the pandemic response ineligible for federal benefits.
“We are pleased that following public pressure the administration reversed course and has extended federal orders allowing National Guard members to be eligible for the federal benefits they deserve for this very difficult assignment,” Higgins said. “This extension maintains critical assistance on the frontlines into the summer as states fight back against this pandemic and confirms this nation supports the men and women supporting federal emergency response.”
National Guard members are currently assigned to duty under temporary "Title 32, Section 502(f)" (T32) status to help with COVID-19 response. Under T32, the federal government funds the full-time activation of those members, working under the governor’s direction.
New York’s Title 32 authorization began March 28. New York Guard members deployed for coronavirus response full-time since this date would have qualified for 88 days of service on June 24, just two days short of the 90-day threshold to make them eligible for veteran health care and education benefits under the post-9/11 GI Bill.
Local guard members, assigned out of the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, are among those currently fulfilling COVID-19 response duties.
Higgins was among 125 bipartisan members of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate issuing a letter objecting to the administration’s plan to end the federal assignment days shy of full eligibility for federal benefits.