October 04, 2013

Manchin, Rockefeller, Rahall Send Letter to Department of Defense to Ensure National Guard and Reserves Receive Pay During Government Shutdown

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Joe Manchin and Jay Rockefeller, and 48 other bipartisan senators, along with Congressman Nick Rahall (all D-W.Va.) today sent a bipartisan, bicameral letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel urging that the National Guard and Reserves, and the civilians who support our troops, receive pay during the government shutdown.

Even though the “Pay Our Military Act” was quickly signed into law before the government shut down to make sure all military personnel receive pay, there have been reports that many service members and civilians, especially in the National Guard and Reserves, have been furloughed without compensation.

“Before our government shut down, Washington unanimously agreed to make sure paychecks go out to our service members and those who dedicate their lives to protect us each and every day,” Manchin said. “It is simply not fair and not right that the National Guard and Reserves and other civilians who also work on our national security have been furloughed and are forced to stay at home without receiving their paychecks. I am encouraged that so many of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle have swiftly come together to make this wrong a right. I thank the many West Virginia Guardsman and women, and their families, who contacted me about this issue: your voice matters.”

“Congress took action before the shutdown began to ensure that the men and women of our armed forces, including the Reserves and National Guard, would continue to be paid, and I am pressing the Department of Defense to adhere closely to that policy,” said Congressman Rahall, who wrote a separate letter with 85 House Republicans and Democrats to the Secretary of Defense. 

“However, we also must not forget there are many other West Virginians whose pay will be disrupted by this shutdown, not to mention the countless West Virginians who will be denied access to essential government services. The House needs to focus on the harm it is doing to families and businesses and pass legislation quickly to reopen the government and cease this ridiculous political standoff.”

"On behalf of the men and women of the National Guard we appreciate the continued high level of support from our delegation,” said Adjutant General James Hoyer of the West Virginia National Guard. “The outstanding advocacy and efforts by Senator Manchin and his staff has lead to the awareness of this inequity and a bipartisan effort to correct it.  They have been in contact with us almost hourly to understand our issues and keep us advised of efforts to correct them and take care of our Guardsmen and their families.”

The letter sent to Secretary Hagel requested that the Department of Defense resolve any discrepancies immediately to make sure that those who serve this country, and their families, receive the paychecks they have earned and deserve. Senators Manchin and Rockefeller, along with Congressman Rahall, urged the Department of Defense to use the authority that they’ve been given by Congress to maintain our national security without interruption. 

The following United States Senators sent the letter to Secretary Hagel.

Joe Manchin III, Jerry Moran, Mark Udall, Kelly Ayotte, Mark Pryor, John Hoeven, John D. Rockefeller IV, Pat Roberts, Jeanne Shaheen, Richard Blumenthal, Michael Bennet, Patrick Leahy, Dianne Feinstein, Mark Kirk, Susan M. Collins, Saxby Chambliss, Debbie Stabenow, Tom Udall, John Boozman, Johnny Isakson, Joe Donnelly, Mazie K. Hirono, Mark Begich, Barbara Boxer, Robert Menendez, Chris Coons, Ron Wyden, Heidi Heitkamp, Benjamin L. Cardin, Mary Landrieu, Bill Nelson, Angus S. King, Tim Johnson, Amy Klobuchar, Bernard Sanders, Roy Blunt, Jon Tester, Martin Heinrich, Max Baucus, Charles E. Grassley, Al Franken, Pat Toomey, Richard Burr, Dan Coats, Chris Murphy, Jeff Sessions, James Inhofe, Kay Hagan, Dean Heller and Roger Wicker.

To read the entire letter sent to Defense Secretary Hagel, please see below:

Dear Secretary Hagel,

One of the issues that this divided Congress can agree on is ensuring that our troops who serve in harm’s way, and those that support them, receive the pay and benefits that they have earned. That is why Congress unanimously passed the “Pay Our Military Act” and the President quickly signed the bill into law.

The “Pay Our Military Act” gives the Department of Defense broad latitude to pay service members and civilians. The bill does not limit the provision of pay to civilians or certain service members who were previously categorized by the Administration as 'excepted' or 'essential' during sequestration furloughs. The law that we recently passed is explicitly clear: all members of the Armed Forces, including Reserve component personnel serving in an active status, will be paid in the event of a government shutdown. Further, the bill requires that civilian Department of Defense personnel “providing support to members of the Armed Forces” continue to receive their pay and allowances.

Unfortunately, we are receiving disturbing and conflicting reports from constituents and military personnel that uniformed service members and civilians who are directly supporting troops, including those in combat, are being furloughed. It is our understanding that under the current Department of Defense guidance, our National Guard and Reserves are seeing disruptions for personnel, to include:

• Traditional members of the Guard or Reserve who attend drill and annual training, including those who are performing domestic disaster relief and recovery operations; and
• Dual-status technicians, who are uniformed service members, and also non-dual status technicians; and
• Active Guard Reserve (AGR) personnel; and
• Personnel on short-term, mission-essential, active duty tours (commonly known as ADOS); and
• Federally reimbursed state civilians, such as firefighters, air traffic controllers and other civilians in direct support of military operations.

Beyond the impact on the National Guard and Reserves, we have also received reports of civilians who have been furloughed, even though they directly support deployed troops and their family members.

Therefore, we urge you to review the policies that the services are disseminating to their commands to ensure that the spirit of the “Pay Our Military Act” is upheld and that guidance is standard across the services. Congress has given you the authority to maintain our national security without interruption. We strongly believe that all service members, and the civilians that support them, should receive equitable and fair treatment under this law. 

Thank you for reviewing this matter.