Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Butterfield Introduces Bill to Provide Immediate Medical Leave for New VA Employees with Service-Connected Disabilities

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman G. K. Butterfield (NC-01) has introduced H.R. 5323, the Medical Leave for Veterans Act.  The bill seeks to ensure that newly-hired returning veterans with service-connected disabilities who are full-time Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) employees are able to receive the medical care they need without having to take unpaid leave. 

Under current law, full-time Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) employees accrue a total of 104 hours, or 13 days, of annual sick leave.  While unused annual sick leave may be carried over from year to year, first-year full-time VA employees start their careers in the federal workforce with a zero sick leave balance.  This lack of initial leave for full-time VA workers in their first year on the job is particularly onerous for those who are also disabled veterans. 

“I am pleased to introduce this important bill with Representatives Jones, Lynch, and Price that will enable disabled veterans working for the VA to receive the care they need and have earned,” Congressman G. K. Butterfield said.  “Too often disabled veterans must take unpaid leave during their first year of public service to attend medical appointments or physical therapy due to service-connected disability.  This bill will benefit veterans working at VA facilities in Durham, Elizabeth City, Goldsboro, Greenville, and throughout North Carolina.  I urge my colleagues to pass this bill to enable employees of the VA who are veterans to access the care they need without sacrificing their livelihoods.”   

Specifically, Butterfield’s bill would:

  • Provide first-year VA employees with a service-connected disability rating of 30% or greater with 104 hours of “Medical Leave for Veterans” for the purposes of undergoing medical treatment for their disability.
  • Require the Secretary of the VA to implement a system for certification for such leave.
  • Limit any unused “Medical Leave for Veterans” from being carried over to the following year.
  • Provide medical leave to all first-year VA veteran employees with service-related disability, including non-combat related injuries.  It also covers employees as defined in chapters 73 or 74 of title 38, U.S.C., and includes physicians, dentists, registered nurses, optometrists, physician assistants, and podiatrists. 

If passed, the Veterans Medical Leave Act would take effect one year after enactment, and require the VA to issue regulations within six months of enactment.

The bill is cosponsored by Representatives Walter Jones (NC-03), Stephen Lynch (MA-08), and David Price (NC-04), and compliments H.R. 5229 which impacts title 5 federal employees, but not title 38 VA employees, with service-connected disabilities. 



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