Begich Surprised Over Obama Administration’s Opposition to Providing Retirement Benefits to ATG Members
U.S. Sen. Mark Begich said he was surprised and disappointed over President Obama's Statement of Administration Policy (SAP) objecting to considering service in the Alaska Territorial Guard (ATG) during World War II as "active duty" service.
Sen. Begich, along with Sen. Lisa Murkowski, has successfully inserted language into the Fiscal Year 2010 Senate Defense Appropriations bill that would reinstate retirement benefits to ATG members for their service during WWII. The Senate bill would restore retirement benefits to approximately 26 Alaska Territorial Guard members whose benefits were stopped earlier this year when it was determined the law allowing the benefits had been misinterpreted and they weren't legal.
The SAP released by the Obama Administration today states an objection to counting the ATG service as "active duty." The policy states it would establish a precedent of treating service performed by a State employee as active duty for purposes of the computation of retired pay.
"I am very surprised and disappointed that the administration would take this view of the service of the ATG members," Begich said. "Although not a state at the time, the territory of Alaska was entitled to expect protection by the federal government during World War II. The brave men who fought and protected Alaska deserve as much credit and recognition as any other service member who served protecting the interests of the United States."
Begich said despite the objection noted by the SAP, he has been working for weeks with other members of the Senate to help them understand the role of the ATG and the importance of the retirement benefits to the 26 members who have received the pay in the past. The SAP does not prohibit members of Congress from approving the ATG provision.
"We are talking about 26 brave, elderly Alaska Natives who served honorably for this country during World War II. I, frankly, find it puzzling how the administration could object to giving these men the recognition they deserve. The federal government deserted these men at the end of the war, and I hope the Congress and my colleagues in the Senate won't let that happen again," Begich said.