Source: United States House of Representatives – Representative Derek Kilmer (D-WA)
Tacoma, WA – Today, U.S. Representative Derek Kilmer (WA-06), along with Representatives Gerald E. Connolly (VA-11) and Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01), introduced new bipartisan legislation to help ensure disabled veterans are able to fully utilize their benefits amid disruptions in veterans’ health care during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic caused many Veterans Affairs (VA) health care facilities to cancel or delay non-emergency in-person appointments, including a significant amount of the elective/non-essential medical procedures. Now, as VA facilities begin to work through a backlog of nearly six months of cancelled or re-scheduled appointments, many disabled veterans are at risk of not being able to fully utilize their benefits due to previous rules limiting disabled veteran leave. The Disabled Veteran Leave Extension/Restoration Act will extend the ability of veterans to use their disabled veteran leave and restore leave that has already been lost.
“Our veterans should receive the benefits they have earned and deserve – even in a pandemic,” said Rep. Kilmer. “That’s why I’m proud to introduce bipartisan legislation to ensure that our nation’s disabled veterans are able to take the leave they’ve earned to get the care they need. I’ll keep working to ensure all of our veterans have access to adequate and affordable care.”
“The pandemic has presented challenges to all Americans, particularly our veteran community. We need to make sure we provide flexibility to these heroes so they do not lose access to the leave they have earned and are entitled to. I thank Mr. Kilmer for his leadership on this issue,” said Rep. Connolly.
“Our veterans put their lives on the line for our country, and many returned home with lasting injuries. They deserve all the help that we can provide them,” said Rep. Fitzpatrick. “Allowing disabled veterans to take leave for medical treatment would allow them to live happier, healthier lives. These men and women sacrificed so much to defend our freedoms, and I am proud to support them with this bipartisan, commonsense legislation.”
In 2015, Congress passed the Wounded Warriors Federal Leave Act into Law. This legislation created “disabled veteran leave,” to any new Federal employee who is a veteran with a service-connected disability rated at 30 percent or more for purposes of undergoing medical treatment for such disability for which sick leave could regularly be used. Disabled veteran leave is available during the first 12 months of employment and may not exceed 104 hours. Disabled veteran leave not used during the first 12 months of employment may not be carried over to subsequent years and will be forfeited. Because many veterans have not been able to use their leave during the pandemic, under current law, they will lose it.
The Federal Worker Leave Fairness Act will:
- Extend Disabled Veteran leave to 24 months to any Veteran who entered the program between March of 2019 – June of 2021.
- Restore any leave that has already been lost to any Disable Veteran who entered the program in March of 2019 or later. This leave will be extended to 24 months from the original leave start date.
The Disabled Veteran Leave Extension/Restoration Act is supported by the Federal Managers Association (FMA), International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE), and the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association (NARFE).
“The Federal Managers Association is proud that an FMA member conceived the idea that led to the creation of disabled veteran leave for the federal workforce. Regrettably, Covid-19 has prevented many eligible feds from benefitting from this leave. Congressman Kilmer’s legislation would protect and restore this leave to the brave disabled veterans who have earned it but would otherwise lose it due to the pandemic,” said FMA National President Craig Carter. “We are grateful for Congressman Kilmer identifying this issue and introducing this reasonable and fair solution. Protecting disabled veteran leave for the men and women who have dedicated their lives and careers to our country is honorable and commendable. Congressman Kilmer is a steadfast advocate for the employees at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and feds across the country. FMA enthusiastically supports this legislation and will work with Mr. Kilmer and his office to get this important bill passed and signed into law.”