Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Returning Injured Vets not Protected by USERRA

by Marshall Hanson, CAPT USNR (Ret), Director of Legislation

ROA was invited to Capitol Hill to try to fix a problem which threats the job security for veterans and Reserve Component members returning to work, but still needing military medical treatment.

Returning veterans are falling through a crack in the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). Those injured or disabled National Guard and Reserve members who were separated from active duty, as well as individuals discharged who still need medical treatment are finding that they don’t have protection they need under current law.

Many Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines want to be sent home rather than kept on medical hold. So, they are promised medical care following discharge. The problem that arises is that they must take time away from employment to go to either a Military Medical Treatment Facility or the Veterans Administration. When civilian sick leave runs out, many employers threaten job security if the veterans continue to take time off for treatment. They aren’t covered by USERRA because they aren’t under military orders.

Representative Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) received some reports about veterans in Texas who were fired and it turned out there is little that can be done for these individuals under current law. The Congressman wrote H.R.466, Wounded Veteran Job Security Act, to try to correct this disparity, with the House even passing the bill. But it has met with resistance in the Senate with how it was written.

ROA, the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States, the Iraqi and Afghanistan Veterans, Association, the Disabled American Veterans, the American Legion, and the Military Officers Association of America were invited by the staff of Rep. Doggett to discuss how this bill could be fixed. These organizations agreed to include this in our goals, and will make suggestions on improving the legislation.

One of the challenges faced is finding individuals in this situation who have actually had their jobs threatened. The information that reached Rep. Doggett’s office was from sources that must remain anonymous. If ROA can put a face to the problem, Congress will listen.

See ROA Law Review number 168 that addresses this issue.


Anonymous said...

Their reserve unit should be putting them on orders (AT/ADT/ADSW, etc, Etc) for any medical appointments at a MTF or VA. Not only would it be official duty, but they would get paid for that appointment.

Phil said...

I agree that injured members should be kept on orders, but that's not what this article is addressing. It discusses those that give up their rights to the USERRA by refusing medical continuation orders. Reference this sentence, "...want to be sent home rather than kept on medical hold".
I agree that members are supposed to be granted short term orders for appointments, but there is an alarming trend for units to not provide this.

Anonymous said...

This situation happened to me. I just got back from 1 year in Afghanistan, was still on title 10 active duty orders, and had a heart attack. My unit TRIED to get the army to let me stay at home station (Birmingham, Al) on orders, and recover, and followup with the Doctor whom performed my stent procedure. The army said no. They said I'd have to go to Ft. Gordon for an unknown period of time. I said, heck no, I'd just been in Afghanistan for a year and the last thing I wanted to do was leave home and family again. Oh well. SGM Williams