Service-disabled veterans who become federal employees would start their careers with paid sick leave available, under legislation introduced by a bipartisan group of lawmakers Jan. 14.
Currently, there is no special accommodation for such employees. The Wounded Warriors Federal Leave Act would give them 104 hours starting out, instead of starting from zero and accruing more leave as federal employees currently do.
The bill's sponsors said that a lack of sick leave unfairly hurts veteran efforts at getting regular medical care and in treating injuries. The employee must be 30 percent disabled to qualify.
The bill is sponsored by Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., and cosponsored by Reps. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, Elijah Cummings, D-Md., G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., Walter Jones, R-N.C., Gerry Connolly, D-Va., and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C.
The sick leave provided would not carry over into the second year and veterans would then accrue sick leave normally.
Lawmakers had previously introduced the legislation July 31, 2014, but the bill did not become law and congressional rules required the lawmakers to re-introduce it in 2015.
"It is unacceptable that 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," Lynch said in a statement. "The Wounded Warriors Federal Leave Act of 2015 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."
Farenthold said in a statement that the extra leave would allow veterans to seek medical treatment and avoid the possibilities of having to take unpaid leave.
""I am proud to be a co-author of this legislation that will provide disabled veterans that enter the federal workforce the opportunity to seek medical treatment for their service-related disabilities without being forced to take unpaid leave. We must support our veterans, especially those who suffered a disability protecting our freedom," Farenthold said.
Patricia Niehaus, president of the Federal Managers Association, said the legislation was one of the group's top priorities and the organization would work to have the bill introduced in the Senate and made into law.
She said the federal government is the largest employer of veterans – many of whom suffer from chronic conditions as a result of their service.
"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," Niehaus said. "The federal government should strive to be a model employer, and acknowledging the needs of these men and women does so."