D.C. – Today, Congressman Stephen F. Lynch (D-MA),  joined by Congressman Blake Farenthold (R-TX), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD), Congressman G. K. Butterfield (D-NC), Congressman Walter B. Jones (R-NC), Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), and Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-VA), introduced H.R. 313, the Wounded Warriors Federal Leave Act of 2015. This bipartisan legislation would provide federal employees, who are also veterans with a service-connected disability rating of 30% or greater, with 104 hours of “Wounded Warrior leave” during their first year in the federal workforce so that they may seek medical treatment for their service-connected disabilities without being forced to take unpaid leave or forego their appointments altogether. Congressman Lynch first introduced the legislation in the 113th Congress and it was reported favorably to the House by the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on September 17, 2014.

“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. 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,” said Congressman Lynch.

Newly hired federal employees begin their federal government careers with a zero sick leave balance. As a result, disabled veterans who have recently entered the federal workforce do not have sufficient sick leave to attend medical appointments to treat their service-connected disabilities on a regular basis. Many veterans are returning from multiple tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan with PTSD and other health issues. Congressman Lynch introduced H.R. 313 to address the concerns raised by many veterans regarding the substantial burden placed on Wounded Warriors in the federal workforce who have to skip appointments, rather than miss work.

In order for eligible federal employees to make use of such leave, the bill would simply require employees to submit certification to their agency as prescribed by the Office of Personnel Management or in the case of postal employees, the Postmaster General. Given that these dedicated federal workers will have accumulated up to 104 hours of traditional federal sick leave by the beginning of their second year on the job, this legislation would also provide that any unused “Wounded Warrior leave” would not be carried over to the following year.   

“I am pleased to reintroduce this legislation with bipartisan support and look forward to swift passage of this important effort to reduce the burden placed on our Wounded Warriors who choose to continue their much appreciated service by entering the federal workforce,” Lynch added.

“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,” said Congressman Farenthold.

“This bipartisan legislation would ease the transition of our wounded warriors from military to federal service by providing them with 104 hours of paid leave to use during their first year of federal employment to obtain the medical care that they need and deserve. The Wounded Warriors Federal Leave Act of 2015 honors the commitment of these brave men and women to public service,” said Ranking Member Cummings.   

“I’m pleased to again cosponsor this bill that will help the many disabled veterans in North Carolina and throughout the nation,” said Congressman Butterfield.  “This is common-sense legislation. I urge my colleagues to pass the Wounded Warrior Federal Leave Act and allow disabled veterans to access the care they need without sacrificing their livelihoods.”    

“Once again, I am proud to cosponsor the Wounded Warriors Federal Leave Act,” said Congressman Jones. “These men and women have made incredible sacrifices to defend our freedom and have been wounded as a result. They deserve an adequate amount of time to tend to their wounds while beginning a new chapter in their careers after they leave the military. That is why I am cosponsoring the Wounded Warriors Federal Leave Act and will continue to do everything I can to help our veterans.”

“The least we can do to thank our veterans who have been wounded while fighting for our freedom is to give them peace of mind while they attend to their medical needs,” said Congresswoman Norton.

“Our Nation is deeply indebted to the brave men and women that serve in uniform with honor and distinction, particularly those disabled veterans who have made significant sacrifices on behalf of our country, and continue to bear the costs of war over a lifetime,” said Congressman Connolly. “We are just as fortunate when these patriotic Americans return home and decide to continue serving the public, even though in the first year of transitioning to the civilian workforce these veterans lack the necessary sick leave to cover medical treatments for service-related disabilities. No disabled veteran should be forced to use leave without pay as a cost of joining the federal workforce, and that is why I am proud to cosponsor Mr. Lynch’s bipartisan legislation that will ensure service-disabled veterans can enter the federal workforce with sufficient sick leave to cover treatments for disabilities that result from military service.” 

H.R. 313 has received endorsements from a number of federal employee and veterans’ organizations, including the Federal Managers Association (FMA), the American Federation of Government Employees, the National Treasury Employees Union, the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, and the Disabled American Veterans. It is also strongly supported by the Federal-Postal Coalition, an organization representing nearly 5 million federal and postal workers and annuitants.  

“As the federal government continues to strive to be a model employer, FMA is grateful for the work of Representative Lynch and his legislation, the Wounded Warriors Federal Leave Act. This would provide federal employees who qualify as 30 percent disabled by the Department of Veterans Affairs, and are within their first year of federal employment, with 104 hours of sick leave in order to attend medically necessary appointments for their service-related disability,” said Federal Managers Association National President Patricia Niehaus. “FMA members have seen first-hand the stress these new employees face as they struggle with their disability on top of the demands of their jobs. As these veterans served their country on and off the battlefield, it is only right that the federal government provides this much needed leave.”

Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) and Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS) introduced a Senate companion bill in the 113th Congress and they plan to reintroduce the bill in this new Congress.