Federal Managers Work With Congress to Provide Well-earned Sick Leave Credit for Disabled Veterans
By The Federal Managers Association
The federal government is proud to be the largest employer of veterans in the country. These brave men and women are returning from military service with skills and talents that federal managers find invaluable. This population of workers, however, includes many with significant service-related disabilities. Those classified by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) with a disability rating need to keep VA medical appointments not only for treatment, but also to ensure their disability benefits. Disabled veterans who are serving their first year of federal employment often struggle with allotted sick leave. These men and women, like all feds, begin their first year of service with no sick leave, accruing four hours of leave every pay period. However, with chronic disabilities that require numerous medical appointments, disabled veterans run the risk of exhausting both sick and annual leave available in their first year of service.
The Federal Managers Association (FMA) chapter at Cherry Point Marine Corp Air Station Depot in North Carolina first brought this issue to the Association’s attention. The Air Station employs numerous veterans as they have first-hand experience working with military vehicles in combat zones. Disabled veterans working here have to travel three to four hours to the nearest VA medical facility. This, on top of a medical appointment, means these employees face taking an entire day off of work, burning through leave. One first year federal employee who qualified as disabled under the VA used thirty hours of sick leave in three months. Because of this, FMA began to work with members of Congress to provide first year federal employees who have a service-related disability of thirty percent or more with the necessary amount of sick leave for VA medical appointments.
Shortly before the summer recess, Representative Stephen Lynch (D-MA) introduced the Wounded Warriors Federal Leave Act, H.R. 5229. The legislation provides 104 hours upon hiring to first-year federal employees with at least a thirty percent disability rating from the VA. This extra leave can only be used to seek medical attention for service related injuries and cannot be carried over after twelve months of employment. Upon introduction, Rep. Lynch commented, “Our wounded warrior federal employees who are just starting out in the federal workforce are often faced with the difficult choice of having to take unpaid leave to attend their VA appointments or miss their medical visits. This provides vital federal leave for our heroic and dedicated wounded warriors so that they are able to take the time they need to address their disabilities, while continuing their much appreciated service to our country.”
FMA National President Patricia Niehaus commented on the bill, stating, “H.R. 5529 recognizes that newly hired federal employees who are disabled veterans should not have to choose between seeking medical attention and exhausting any leave available.” She added, “FMA members have seen first-hand the stress this creates in the work environment, as both managers and employees try to meet congressionally-mandated missions and goals. As these disabled veterans served their country on and off the battlefield, it is only right that the federal government provide this much needed leave.”
H.R. 5229 received bipartisan support in the House, as it is cosponsored by Representatives Blake Farenthold (R-TX), Elijah Cummings (D-MD), G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), and Walter Jones (R- NC). The bill has been referred to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and FMA is working to get similar language introduced in the Senate. Although there are few legislative days left in the 113th Congress, we are hopeful this common-sense legislation will be passed and signed into law, and we can give back to the disabled veterans who have already sacrificed so much on behalf of the country and continue to serve.
Celebrating its 100th year, the Federal Managers Association (FMA) is proud of its long tradition of Advocating Excellence in Public Service. For more information on how FMA works to protect your interests and to join our team, please visit www.fedmanagers.org.
Posted in Hear it from FMA