National Political Editor Neil W. McCabe on National Guardsmen Now on the Precipice of Losing Pay and Health Benefits for Rejecting Vaccine

Live from Music Row Wednesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed The Tennessee Star’s national political editor Neil McCabe to the newsmaker line to discuss the current situation of National Guardsmen across the country and the leading governors who are taking action against the possible Republican, conservative, Trump-supporting guardsmen that refuse to bow to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

Leahy: We are joined now on our newsmaker line by the very best Washington correspondent in the country, the national political editor for The Tennessee Star and The Star News Network, Mr. Neil W. McCabe. Good morning, Neil.

McCabe: Good morning, Michael. Very good to be with you, sir.

Leahy: Great report yesterday on the crazy incident out in Johnson City in the Bristol area. But right now I want to talk to you about what’s going on with the National Guard around the country and here in Tennessee.

Tell us what’s happened to those members of the Tennessee National Guard who have refused to take the COVID-19 vaccine now that the June 30th mandate was given to them by the Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin. What is their status right now?

McCabe: They are in limbo, Michael. The Tennessee National Guard, like all the state National Guards, is a hybrid. It’s under the control of the governors, but it’s funded by the federal government through what’s called Title 32.

Active duty is funded out of Title X. That’s why people, when people, say, go to Iraq or Afghanistan, they’re under Title 10 orders.

But when you’re working for the states, and the states – for instance, all those Tennessee guardsmen who helped out with the response to the COVID-19 pandemic across the state of Tennessee, they were all Title 32.

They’re controlled by the governor and funded by the feds. And the fed said as of midnight, June 30th, if you do not have a COVID-19 vaccine, you cannot drill, you cannot be paid. So all the full-timers, they’ve been put on a sort of no-pay status.

The problem is that if you’re in a no-pay status, then what do you do? You’re out of work, especially these full-timers. There is a part of the reserve in the big army, they call it the Individual Ready Reserve for the National Guard.

It’s called the inactive National Guard. And that’s people who are sort of on the shelf, they put their military career on hold, but they’re sort of there and they’re available for recall. In that status, they don’t receive paid benefits or training, but they also can’t take part in the TRICARE health insurance or in the life insurance policy, which pays up to $400,000 for servicemen.

And so what you’re looking at is, potentially these guys are also, not only are they losing their opportunity to sort of work, they’re looking at losing their health insurance and their life insurance. And you’re going to see families in trouble if this thing isn’t resolved quickly.

Leahy: What’s happening on that resolution side? We’ve seen many members of the Tennessee General Assembly, including our story today about Deputy Speaker of the State Senate Janice Bowling, said she would support a special session of the Tennessee General Assembly to figure out this and perhaps pay for those National Guard members who aren’t being paid for by the feds under this rule. What are your thoughts on this?

McCabe: Well, you see, this is what Ron DeSantis, the Republican governor of Florida, has done. He’s re-establishing the Florida State Guard. And so that would be a state-funded, state-controlled force.

And the guardsmen who are sort of forced out of the Florida Army National Guard would have the chance to continue their careers in the State Guard. The problem is the funding. And so if you pay the piper, you call the tune, Mike.

Leahy: Well, there you go. In terms of leadership around the country, you mentioned Ron DeSantis. There are a couple of other governors that are doing more things to support the National Guard members who don’t want to take these COVID-19 vaccines. Who are those governors, and why isn’t Bill Lee, governor of Tennessee, following that example?

McCabe: So there has been no guidance from the National Guard Bureau on how to handle these separations. What the Pentagon and the Department of the Army have said is they’ve told the individual state guards to start chaptering out your guys who are unvaxxed.

And so each governor has to sort of run that program themselves. Governor Kevin Stitt in Oklahoma, he’s the hero. He’s been leading from the front. A year ago, he was basically in front of this.

And he has ordered the Oklahoma National Guard to stop all separation boards. They are forbidden from doing any separation boards. You have states like Ohio where they’re sort of in a holding pattern.

It’s my understanding that Arizona is also in a holding pattern. Kay Ivey, the governor of Alabama, also a Republican, wrote a letter to Biden about a week before the deadline where she, in effect, said, we all know that this vaccine mandate is going to be rescinded, and we all know that nobody’s worried about COVID right now. Why are you ruining people’s careers and lives?

I didn’t see a reply to that letter, but that would give you sort of the tenor of what other governors are saying and doing. In Tennessee, they’re driving forward.

It’s my understanding that the tag, the Adjutant Major General Jeffrey H. Holmes, he’s four-square behind getting people out. And so look for those separation boards in Tennessee.

Leahy: So basically you’re hearing from Tennessee National Guard members that the separation boards are going forward for those Tennessee National Guard members who are refusing to take the COVID-19 vaccine.

McCabe: Yes. Let’s be honest, it’s also a purge. The perception, rightly or wrongly, is that people who are resisting the vaccine are Republicans or conservatives or Trump supporters.

We saw from the beginning of the Biden administration, the attempt to sort of isolate and eliminate Republicans and Trump supporters from the military ranks.

This is a very convenient way of flushing, what? – 30, 40, or 50,000 National Guardsmen who are suspected of being Trump supporters out of the National Guard across the country.

It will be absolutely horrific. And when you consider, too, that the U.S. Army is at 40 percent of their recruitment goals going into the last quarter of the fiscal year.

Now, granted, a lot of that recruiting is done in the summer, but still, you’re at 40 percent in June. That’s bad. It’s not like the world isn’t a crazy place right now.

Listen to the interview:

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.


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