Same Mission, Different Pay for National Guard

Same Mission, Different Pay for National Guard

June 19, 2020 Off By administrator

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For months, U.S. residents have seen National Guard troops fan out across communities — testing patients for COVID-19, answering calls at state unemployment offices and, more recently, standing in riot gear before Americans protesting structural racism and deaths in police custody.

Those troops, many of whom hold full-time civilian jobs outside of their Guard roles, usually are called up for domestic duty by governors, not by the Department of Defense, and — just as with other state workers — their pay and benefits vary widely even as they do similar jobs.

“One of the big challenges for both states and federal government, is that when people see a National Guard soldier … on the street, they have zero sense of these … multiple pay statuses,” said Brian Nussbaum, a professor of homeland security at the State University of New York at Albany.

“In some states it’s [the] governor deploying with state money, others it’s governors deploying with federal money,” he said.

If troops are injured on the job, health coverages may differ, and some rely on state workers’ compensation programs, which vary widely. Only if they are federalized by presidential order do National Guard troops receive equal pay and benefits.

The pressures and disparities among National Guard troops drew attention when President Donald Trump in May said he would deactivate troops after 89 days — one day short of the 90 days needed to qualify for some benefits, including G.I. Bill-type college support.

Trump reversed himself and later announced that he’d keep troops on duty through mid-August.

On June 5 this year, nearly 84,000 National Guard soldiers and airmen were activated for duty in the United States, surpassing the record of 51,000 Guard members who responded to the 2005 Hurricane Katrina disaster, the Washington office of the National Guard Bureau said in a news release.

Some 41,500 of them were directed to civil unrest, while about 37,000 were supporting COVID-19 efforts. Counting Guard members overseas, 118,000 total were deployed at the time.

“When people see a National Guard soldier … on the street, they have zero sense of these … multiple pay statuses.”

Brian Nussbaum, professor
State University of New York at Albany

But disparities — both among states and when compared with active-duty troops — are baked into the system, because National Guard organizations are based in states. In most cases, particularly when deploying to a single state as for a local flood, National Guard members deploy under “state active duty” status — deployed and paid by the same state. In deployments of Guard units from multiple states, those separate…

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