Government affairs

House and Senate reintroduce Wounded Warriors Federal Leave Act; bill advances in House

Both the House and Senate have reintroduced the Wounded Warriors Federal Leave Act, which would provide first-year federal workers with service-related disabilities sick leave to use for medical visits.

The House bill, H.R. 313, introduced earlier this month, is co-sponsored by Reps. Stephen Lynch (D-MA), Blake Farenthold (R-TX), G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), Gerry Connolly (D-VA), Elijah Cummings (D-MD), Walter Jones (R-NC) and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC).

On Tuesday, H.R. 313 passed the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. It will now advance to the House floor.

Last week, Sens. Jon Tester (D-MT) and Jerry Moran (R-KS) reintroduced their companion bill, S. 242.

Currently, first-year government workers accrue only four hours of sick leave each pay period, forcing many veterans with disabilities to take unpaid leave because they have not yet built up enough leave time. Under both bills, newly hired veterans with a disability rating of 30 percent or more would receive 13 days (104 hours) of sick leave for medical treatment associated with their disability.

“Our wounded warriors answered our call to duty when it came,” Farenthold said. ”We must answer their call—ensuring they receive access to the medical care they were promised. We must work to ensure that our heroes aren’t forced to take unpaid leave to deal with the injuries they suffered in defense of our country.”

Following committee passage, Lynch praised his colleague’s bipartisan efforts to pass the bill. “It is an important demonstration of meaningful bipartisanship and emphasizes the committee’s commitment to the dedicated wounded warriors serving in our federal workforce,” he said. “Our disabled veterans are faced with a significant burden as they enter the federal workforce. This bill provides vital federal leave for our heroic and devoted 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.”

Both the House and Senate bills are similar to legislation introduced during the last Congress, and they would cover Postal Service employees.The current House and Senate bills allow the postmaster general to prescribe leave regulations for postal employees with service related discharges. The Office of Personnel and Management (OPM) will set these regulations for all other federal employees covered under the law. The House bill gives OPM and the PMG nine months to prescribe leave regulations; the Senate version gives OPM and the PMG 12 months.

“Living up to the promises we make to our troops, our veterans and their families is a task that we can’t ever ignore,” Tester said. “These bills will improve the care that all veterans receive and ensure that military families can stay together and support themselves while serving our country.”


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