WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congressman Stephen F. Lynch (D-MA), Congressman Blake Farenthold (R-TX), Congressman Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD), and Congressman G. K. Butterfield (D-NC) introduced H.R. 5229, the Wounded Warriors Federal Leave Act of 2014. This bipartisan legislation would provide federal employees, who are also disabled veterans, 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. Rep. Lynch and Rep. Farenthold respectively serve as the Ranking Member and Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Federal Workforce, U.S. Postal Service, and the Census, Rep. Cummings is Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Rep. Butterfield is a senior member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.
Under current law, full-time federal employees accrue four hours of sick leave for each bi-weekly pay period for a total maximum of 104 hours, or 13 days, of annual sick leave. However, federal employees in their first year on the job begin their federal government careers with a zero sick leave balance. As a result, disabled veterans who have recently entered the federal workforce often do not have sufficient sick leave to attend medical appointments to treat their service-connected disabilities on a regular basis.
“The lack of initial sick leave for new federal workers places a significant burden on our disabled veterans during their first year of federal employment,” said Congressman Stephen F. Lynch. “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 V.A. appointments or miss their medical visits. The Wounded Warriors Federal Leave Act of 2014 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,” added Lynch.
In particular, the Wounded Warriors Leave Act of 2014 would provide first-year federal employees with a service-connected disability rating of 30% or greater with 104 hours of “Wounded Warriors leave” for the purposes of undergoing medical treatment for their disabilities. 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. 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 Warriors leave” would not be carried over to the following year.
“While we can never fully repay the debt incurred by the men and women who put their lives on the line to protect our freedom, I am proud to support this legislation that would provide disabled veterans that enter the federal workforce the opportunity to seek medical treatment for their service-connected disabilities without being forced to take unpaid leave,” Chairman Blake Farenthold said.
“These wounded warriors want to keep serving their country and the American people. This legislation will help with their transition by providing a bank of leave in their first year of federal employment that they can use for medical treatments while continuing their public service,” Ranking Member Elijah E. Cummings stated.
“I am pleased to introduce this important piece of legislation with Representatives Lynch, Farenthold, and Cummings that will help disabled veterans in public service to receive the care they need and have earned,” Congressman G. K. Butterfield said. “Veterans with service-connected disabilities deserve to be able to attend VA appointments or physical therapy without having to take unpaid leave during their first year on the job. This bill will immediately help veterans in public service across North Carolina and at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, and Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City.”
H.R. 5229 has been endorsed by the Federal Managers Association, the American Federation of Government Employees, and the National Treasury Employees Union.