Senators: Trump reverses on Guard COVID active duty

Montana’s U.S. senators have said the Trump administration has reversed course on plans to limit the length of service for National Guard members during the COVID-19 pandemic, giving them access to additional federal benefits.

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. Title 32 orders give federal authorization for in-country full-time National Guard service.

The administration had planned to put a “hard stop” on deployment of Army and Air National Guard troops activated to assist during the pandemic at 89 days, one day short of their being eligible for federal benefits in active deployment.

Sens. Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Steve Daines, R-Mont., each had sent letters asking Trump to reverse that decision.

They said in releases Thursday that Trump announced the administration will extend Title 32 orders through August.

“This is great news for thousands of guardsmen defending our nation during this national emergency who have been waiting in limbo for the benefits they rightfully earned,” Tester said. “When the going got tough, the men and the women of the National Guard stood ready to serve on the front lines of this pandemic. It took far too much pressure and time for this administration to do the right thing, but I’m glad it did — and I’ll continue working to hold the Department of Defense accountable to deliver on this commitment.”

“Our brave guardsmen and women working on the front lines of this pandemic every day to protect the health and safety of our communities need the assurance their benefits will be protected as they serve,” Daines said. “I’m glad the president acted swiftly on my request to ensure our National Guard service members are put on orders long enough to protect their GI and retirement benefits during this crisis.”