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Congress Gives Disabled Vets Hired as Feds Advance Sick Leave

Bill aims to help wounded warriors get to doctors’ appointments without eating up leave.

The House on Monday passed a bipartisan bill would give disabled veterans hired as federal employees access to their full year’s sick leave immediately upon starting their jobs.  

The Wounded Warriors Federal Leave Act, which passed on voice vote, would give 104 hours of sick leave up front to first-year feds who are vets with a service-connected disability rating of at least 30 percent to attend medical appointments related to their disability. During their first year on the job, those vets would still accumulate their normal sick leave. The employees would only be able to use their extra sick leave for treatments directly related to their service and would not be able to carry over the one-time “wounded warrior leave” after the first 12 months on the job.

The Senate passed its version of the legislation in July. There are some minor technical differences between the two bills that need to be tweaked before it heads to President Obama.

Full-time federal workers in their first year on the job have no sick leave when they start, and accrue four hours of such leave per pay period. That amounts to a balance of 104 hours at the end of their first year. But disabled vets, who must attend regular medical appointments to maintain their health, and also to continue receiving their veterans’ benefits, quickly burn up their sick leave, according to the Federal Managers Association, which lobbied for the legislation. Many vets also have to travel far to reach the nearest VA facility to receive treatment, which can eat up leave time.

The legislation had wide support in both chambers of Congress.

"I am grateful that the House recognized the invaluable services these veterans provide the federal government," said FMA President Patricia Niehaus in a statement. "These dedicated men and women gave a tremendous sacrifice to the nation and they choose to continue to serve their country; they should not have to choose between seeking medical attention and exhausting leave." 

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