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Bost Urges DoD to Clarify Shifting Policy Impacting GI Bill Eligibility for Guard Troops Deployed to the Southern Border

Today, Rep. Mike Bost (R-Ill.), the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, released the following statement after sending a letter to Secretary of Defense, Lloyd J. Austin III, regarding National Guard Members’ eligibility for GI Bill benefits following the Biden Administration’s recent termination of the national emergency declaration at the southern border.

“The Biden Administration’s decision to reverse the emergency declaration at the southern border risks national security. It also risks the education of thousands of members of the National Guard who are still deployed there,” said Ranking Member Bost. “Secretary Austin must immediately tell us whether those serving at the border since January 20th are receiving the same credit toward the GI Bill that they were on January 19th. Their service has not changed. Their benefits should not change either. The National Guard has stepped up in extraordinary ways over the last year. They have left their families and lives behind to serve on federal duty at the border, in DC, and elsewhere. Every single one of them should receive full GI Bill credit for their service. I stand ready to work with the Secretary to make sure they get exactly that.”

Full text of the letter Ranking Member Bost sent to Secretary Austin can be found here and below.

The Honorable Lloyd J. Austin III
Secretary
Department of Defense
1500 Defense Pentagon
Washington, D.C. 20301

Dear Mr. Secretary,

Congratulations on your historic appointment as Secretary of Defense. As the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, I look forward to working with you to improve the transition process for separating servicemembers and ensure that members of the National Guard and Reserve have full access to their earned benefits. Accordingly, I commend the Department’s quick response to my staff’s recent request to clarify that members of the National Guard are gaining Post-9/11 GI Bill eligibility for their service in the U.S. Capitol and within Washington, D.C. I am writing now to express my concern that members of the National Guard serving along our southern border may not be receiving that same credit due to President Biden’s January 20th proclamation terminating the national emergency there.

Section 3301(1)(C)(ii) of Title 38, United States Code (U.S.C.) provides that service by members of the National Guard, “under section 502(f) of title 32 U.S.C. when authorized by the President or the Secretary of Defense for the purpose of responding to a national emergency declared by the President and supported by Federal funds” is creditable “active duty” towards Post-9/11 GI Bill entitlement.

On February 15, 2019, former President Trump issued Presidential Proclamation 9844, which declared a national emergency on our southern border. On December 12, 2019, following a committee inquiry, former Defense Secretary Mark Esper, issued a memorandum reversing an Obama Administration decision that certain service under 502(f) orders is not creditable towards eligibility for the Post-9/11 GI Bill. As a result of his memorandum, thousands of members of the National Guard have earned eligibility towards VA’s education program.

I believe that President Biden’s recent decision to terminate President Trump’s emergency declaration puts our national security at risk. It also risks the education of the thousands of men and women who are still serving at the southern border. I am sure you agree that their service is no less critical than those currently serving in D.C.

I respectfully ask that, no later than close of business on Friday, February 12, 2021, you provide the following information:

• The status of members of the National Guard currently serving at the southern border, including end strengthen and the statutory authority for their service
• Clarification on whether the rescission of Presidential Proclamation 9844 eliminates the ability for members of the National Guard currently serving on the southern border to continue to receive credit towards Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits and, if so, how that is being communicated to them;
• Whether DOD has the legal authority to credit the service of members of the National Guard serving on the southern boarder absent a Presidential proclamation like Presidential Proclamation 9844.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. I look forward to your timely response.

Sincerely,

Mike Bost
Ranking Member
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