As guard, members of the reserve are faced with interrupted exercise periods, some are asking for a legal solution
In the immediate wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, thousands of National Guard members from New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia were called up to active duty to support the defense and recovery of their state, sacrificing federal drill points they would have earned for their retirement as they fulfilled the mission of the state.
This was an extraordinary situation and Congress ultimately intervened, creating a narrow exemption that allowed state activation in these cases to count towards a member of the Guard’s retirement.
Now, as the nation faces yet another extraordinary event in the form of the novel coronavirus pandemic, some are once again looking to Congress to step in and relieve members of the Guard and Reserve whose careers may be at risk. due to circumstances beyond their control.
Social distancing measures to limit the spread of the virus have forced Guard and Reserve units to suspend, postpone or reconfigure regular exercise periods – point-worth training opportunities many need to earn ” happy new year ”towards retirement. And while officials from the Military Services and National Guard Bureau say they are working to find other ways to accomplish the training, there is no waiver or holistic adjustment that takes into account disruption due to the training. pandemic.
the Marine, for example, decided in mid-March to postpone exercise weekends for most reservists, a suspension that has now been extended to the end of May. While units had to work with members to change schedules and grant liberal waivers, there was no guarantee that reservists would be able to meet the needs. the Marine Corps also proposed to suspend drilling of the reserve indefinitely, while the Army Postponed combat assemblies. the Aviation imposed a stop movement order, but encouraged commanders to find creative ways to save time.
Susan Lukas, legislative director of the Reserve Officers Association, said some members of the Guard and Reserve are more at risk of losing than others – those nearing retirement, for example, or those who are nearing retirement. their contract year in the spring, leaving little opportunity to reschedule missed exercise periods.
To earn a “Happy New Year” that counts towards retirement, members must earn at least 50 points – 35 in addition to the 15 credited to them for membership. Each day of active service, attendance at exercise and funeral honors service is worth one point each; a typical weekend exercise is worth four points in total. Members of the Guard and Reserve need 20 “good years” to be eligible for retirement.
Lukas said his organization is proposing a law that would give Guard and Reserve members constructive credit for this year, making up for the difference in career points they need, up to 50. That’s a better option. , she said, that a Defense Waiver or allowance from the Ministry, as service members would not be required to keep their own records or make their case to the military accounting system.
“In twenty years, when [the Defense Finance Accounting Service] reconciles [members’] record to make sure they are 20, who will remember that this year was a waiver year? ”said Lukas.“ Members should then appeal. I just saw a waiver as a bureaucratic nightmare for the member when it comes time to retire. “
Frank Yoakum, executive director of the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States, said the idea that exercise periods and combat assemblies can simply be replaced by virtual sessions and video chats doesn’t work. not account for the many military jobs that are hands-off. Exercising virtually, he said, is an extremely temporary solution at best.
“I receive [using] Zoom… but there really isn’t much you can do at home for certain jobs, ”he said.“ Whether you’re talking about an infantry unit or an infantry unit artillery and their job is to go out and fire artillery or do weapon maintenance or wheel vehicle maintenance, you can’t really do that virtually. That’s not why you joined the Guard. “
He added that many members of the Guard remain on active duty in the state, where they support the pandemic response, but do not accumulate retirement points. End of April, according to a Military Times Report, about 80% of the Guard were on federally funded Title 32 ordinances; but nearly 8,000 guards continued to support the state response alone, with fewer benefits and no pension credit.
“Maybe if your retirement year just started in March, you have time to catch up this year,” Yoakum said, noting that each service member is on a different schedule depending on when their original contract begins. “But if it started in January or February… you might be worried.”
And it’s not just about retirement, he added.
“In the army regulations, there are penalties for not having a good year of retirement,” he said. “If you don’t get a good year in a year, they might fire you from the military for unsatisfactory participation. I hope someone from the DoD or the military… will take a look at this. “
At least one military service has already expressed interest in finding a legislative solution to the problem.
Air Force Reserve political teams are working with the Department of Defense “on potential legislative relief for Reserve members who may not be getting enough points for a” good year “due to COVID restrictions. 19, ”Bo Joyner, an Air Force Reserve Command spokesperson, told Military.com in a statement. “As it becomes available, this information will be disseminated to our Citizen Airmen.”
Joyner added that the Air Force is also encouraging Reserve commanders to consolidate their periods of unit training exercises into “super ATUs” later in the year and to maximize telework and virtual training for. reduce the impact of suspended exercise periods.
The Navy announced a number of mitigating measures for reservists, including a liberal telework policy and an extended deadline to support waivers to participation.
“In order to help our Reservists stay prepared and get the credit for their ‘Happy New Year’, we are making telecommuting considerably easier,” said Navy Reserve Forces Deputy Commander Rear Admiral John Schommer in a statement. communicated. “Our intention is to provide maximum flexibility to our Selected Reserve Sailors (SELRES) and prepare them for success in these difficult times.”
Marine Corps Reserve officials also said they were looking to telecommuting where possible to help reservists stay on top of career points.
“With respect to annual training, we, along with other military reserve forces, are working closely with the Defense Ministry to assess impacts and determine options in the face of unforeseen challenges,” said the spokesperson for Marine Reserve, Captain Markian Sich.
Army officials, who have released a lengthy “frequently asked questions” document regarding pandemic concerns, are relying heavily on “virtual combat assemblies” to replace all periods of in-person exercises. For occupational specialties that do not lend themselves to virtual training, an official told Military.com that unit commanders have the discretion to structure training and currency requirements.
Defense Department spokeswoman Jessica Maxwell declined to comment on any legislative proposals that may be under consideration to help members of the Guard and Reserve. She referred Military.com to documents released by the DoD that focus on telecommuting options for exercise periods.
“We are doing everything within the limits of the law to remedy this problem for our service members,” she said. “We are not aware of a situation which is not covered by the political flexibilities discussed in the documents provided previously.”
April Cunningham, a spokesperson for the National Guard Office, also highlighted the flexibility offered to commanders to reschedule the exercise, make it virtual or authorize an alternate place of duty for Guard members.
“The flexibility is intended to provide other means of making unit assemblies in the same location in order to acquire drill credits or points for retirement,” she said. In addition, individual members can still work with their commanders for the approval of limited equivalent training, when they cannot meet the requirements of the planned training plan (including rescheduled and alternate site plans). ) due to personal issues. “
For Guard and Reserve members, the good news is that there is a bit of time to put in place a legislative solution for anyone who cannot use one of the options provided to earn their ‘Happy New Year’. .
Yoakum said constructive credit can be retroactively approved by Congress – and it’s a step that can be taken once the most pressing pandemic response issues have been addressed.
“I think they have six to nine months to work on this, really,” he said.
– Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.
View full article
© Copyright 2021 Military.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.