Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, is one sponsor of the bill.

Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, is one sponsor of the bill. AP

Sick Leave Bill for Disabled Vets Advances

Senate committee passes legislation that gives wounded warriors hired as feds access to their full year’s sick leave immediately.

Senators on Wednesday advanced legislation that would give disabled veterans hired as federal employees access to their full year’s sick leave immediately upon starting their jobs.

The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee reported out the Wounded Warriors Federal Leave Act, which 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. 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 bill (S. 242) now heads to the full Senate for consideration. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee approved companion legislation in January.

“Veterans who served our nation honorably and now commit themselves to public service shouldn’t have to take unpaid leave to receive the care they need,” said Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., who sponsored S. 242, along with Kansas Republican Jerry Moran.

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.

“This bill provides vital leave the nation’s wounded warriors need to address their disabilities, while continuing to meet their duties on the job,” said Patricia Niehaus, FMA national president. The federal government has long strived to be a model employer. By recognizing the needs of federal employees, S. 242 steps towards this goal.” 

The legislation has wide support in both chambers of Congress.