President Donald Trump announced Thursday he will extend National Guard orders authorizing domestic coronavirus response missions through mid-August, after controversy surrounding the problematic end date next month for their work.
In a twitter post Thursday afternoon, Trump praised the Guardsmen for “doing a great job fighting the coronavirus” and said their orders would be extended an additional two months “so they can continue to help states succeed in their response and recovery efforts.”
Those Title 32 orders were set to expire on June 24, 89 days after the president first approved them. Several state governors had petitioned the White House to extend the orders further into the summer to ensure that the logistics and support missions would remain while the pandemic response work continues.
Current plans call for Guard missions to end after 89 days, one day short of minimums needed to qualify for certain retirement and education benefits.
But the White House also received significant criticism in recent days for picking an end date one day short of the 90 days needed for Guardsmen to qualify for certain military retirement and veterans education benefits.
A number of Democratic lawmakers criticized the move as trying to save money despite the sacrifices of the troops.
Several Republican lawmakers dismissed the controversy, saying that many Guardsmen would still qualify for the benefits if they deployed for at least one more day in coming months or years.
VA officials say they're working with colleges and Congress to watch for potential problems when veterans return to classes next year.
Trump’s announcement Thursday effectively erases those concerns, extending the federal deployment from 89 days to more than 120. No specific end date was announced by the White House.
More than 46,000 Guard members are currently serving under Title 32 orders, the largest domestic employment of the force since the Hurricane Katrina disaster in 2005.
At least 1,100 guardsmen had been diagnosed with coronavirus, many of whom were deployed for pandemic response missions.