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Bad Plan

National?Guard deserves benefits

Of all the chintzy things to do, federal officials’ plan for West Virginia National Guard members takes the prize. Gov. Jim Justice is right to be livid about it. The rest of us in the Mountain State should be furious, too.

Nearly 700 men and women of the National Guard have been working for weeks to help their fellow West Virginians fight the COVID-19 epidemic. They have completed more than 1,000 separate missions, doing everything from helping nursing home staffs to processing applications for unemployment compensation.

Many have put themselves at risk of contracting COVID-19 repeatedly. We have heard not a single complaint from any of them.

West Virginia National Guard members were placed officially under federal deployment, effective April 7 as it became clear their help would be critical in dealing with the epidemic. Under current orders, the federal deployment is to end June 24, after 89 days.

That timing is significant, as Justice pointed out last week.

Service under federal deployment for 90 days qualifies National Guard members for certain benefits. They include qualification for GI Bill education assistance, as well as enhanced retirement and health care benefits.

Cutting them off after 89 days will mean they do not qualify for any of these.

Justice wants the federal order extended to mid-August. Clearly, help from the National Guard will be important even then.

Whether they are needed or not after June 24 is, in a way, immaterial, however. Again, members of the Guard already have rendered courageous, skillful, beneficial help. In all likelihood, they have saved lives.

Congress already has enacted about $2.9 trillion in epidemic-related assistance to just about everyone under the sun. Another $3 trillion bill is in the works.

And we can’t afford to say thank-you to the National Guard? What a low-down, dirty thing to do.

Members of the National Guard in West Virginia and everywhere else in the nation deserve better. President Donald Trump should override the June 24 cut-off. It was a lousy idea in the first place.

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