The family members of National Guard and Reserve troops who've died due to coronavirus should receive survivor benefits, according to an advocacy group for the families of fallen service members.
To this end, representatives from the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors sent a letter on Friday signed by 36 veterans advocacy organizations to the House and Senates on Veteran's Affairs. The letter is meant to help get benefits coverage for the service members around the country who are helping to combat coronavirus.
“We respectfully request that the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees quickly pass legislation to secure federal survivor benefits to the families of Guard members activated under state orders who die of [coronavirus] related causes. The National Guard has always answered when our nation needs them and they deserve the benefits earned for such selfless service,” according to the letter from TAPS that was published by Stars and Stripes.
The letter is in advance of legislation being written to help get full active-duty benefits to National Guard and Reserve troops who've been deployed in the United States to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Our concern has been, first, that should they contract this virus they get the care they should be getting. Also, if they were to die from [the coronavirus], their family gets the full protections and benefits from [the Department of] Veterans Affairs and the Defense Department,” Wheeler said.
Roughly, 44,500 National Guard members have been deployed to fight the coronavirus pandemic. But 20% of those are not on Title 32 status, meaning their families wouldn't be eligible for federal benefits, such as death gratuity, education benefits and monthly survivor compensation.
“This is combat on American soil. It’s a pandemic,” she said. “They are all warriors, and they are out there fighting this. The Guardsmen and women do not have the same protections, their families do not have the same protections, yet they’re all fighting the same fight.”
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