SALEM, Ore. – Several Oregon lawmakers are putting pressure on the state to address recent claims that National Guard members activated to help with the COVID-19 response are being mistreated.
A letter to Gov. Kate Brown and Major General Michael E. Stencel alleges mismanagement, delay of benefits and pay, and more.
“Such treatment of our service members should be unacceptable,” the letter reads.
It was signed by Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley and by Congress members Peter DeFazio, Earl Blumenauer, Kurt Schrader, and Suzanne Bonamici.
In August, Brown announced up to 1,500 Oregon National Guard (ORNG) members would be brought in to help with the state’s most recent surge of cases.
What allegedly ensued was a chaotic and disorganized activation. The letter claims that once members had completed the normal administrative tasks, the state was not prepared to quickly place members in areas of need and provided contradictory information about where they would serve.
Some were left hanging up to mid-September, according to the lawmakers, some had to reserve hotels or other accommodations with their own money and others reportedly found that their travel vouchers weren’t recognized.
Through this all, the lawmakers allege the members were stuck in limbo, unable to go back to their civilian jobs.
“ORNG Members are fellow Oregonians who give their time and sacrifice to serve our communities in times of need. Many ORNG Members have full-time jobs, families, and other responsibilities that they willingly pause in order to serve their fellow Oregonians. ORNG Members’ heroic efforts are bolstering hospitals and helping our communities and loved ones during a deadly pandemic. ORNG members deserve effective and efficient leadership, support, and management, and they deserve to receive the full pay and benefits they have earned,” the letter reads.
The letter also reports that when the initial 30-day activation was coming to a close, the state allegedly intentionally allowed these orders to lapse and issued new orders instead of extending the current one. This prevents members from qualifying for benefit increases and pay that would come from an extension.
Similar concerns have reportedly been shared with lawmakers about previous Oregon National Guard deployments.
The lawmakers are calling on the state to address the issues set forth in the letter, calling it a systemic problem.