Friday, August 3, 2007

Good Ideas for Families of Injured Servicemembers...

They really are good ideas. Better than anything else on the books. I don't think they should have attached this stuff to tax relief bills though.

Bills give families more leave, job protection

By Rick Maze - Staff writer
Posted : Friday Aug 3, 2007 11:48:50 EDT

The Senate passed two pieces of legislation Thursday aimed at helping the families of injured or ill active-duty service members.

Three Democratic presidential candidates are the chief sponsors of the legislation.

One initiative, sponsored by Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., would allow family members to miss up to 52 weeks of work without being fired, denied promotion or hit with any other adverse action by a private employer.

His plan, called the Military Family Job Protection Act, was attached by amendment to the Small Business Tax Relief Act. It would apply to spouses, children, parents and siblings who are on invitation orders to care for a recovering service member, are receiving military per diem payments or are nonmedical attendees for recovering active-duty, Guard or reserve members who are undergoing medical treatment, recuperation or therapy, or are in a medical hold status for injuries, illness or disease incurred or aggravated while on active duty.

Obama, one of the front-running Democratic presidential candidates, is a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee who has taken a big interest in care for combat-wounded troops. His proposal, however, would apply to families of both those with combat and non-combat injuries.

The second family-related initiative, also passed as an amendment to the small-business bill, is sponsored by Sens. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut and Hillary Clinton of New York, both presidential candidates.

Called the Support for Injured Servicemembers Act, it would provide up to six months of unpaid leave for the families of wounded military personnel, expanding the 12 weeks currently available under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

The expanded leave was recommended last week by the President’s Commission on Care for America’s Returning Wounded Warriors. Dodd was asked by former Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kan., to sponsor legislation to implement the recommendations because Dole and Dodd had worked together on the original Family and Medical Leave Act.

In a statement, Dodd said “I believe that Congress has few higher priorities than the safety and well-being of America’s combat heroes. The very least we owe them is our total support for their family and medical needs.”

Clinton said the 12 weeks of leave now available doesn’t fit the needs of many military families.

“All too often, this is just not enough time, as they struggle to care for loved ones grappling with traumatic brain injuries, severe physical wounds and other problems upon returning home from Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere,” said Clinton, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Eligibility is similar to that in Obama’s bill.

The fate of the two initiatives is unclear because they are attached to tax relief bill, which provides tax incentives for small businesses to provide health coverage to employees, which is not directly relevant to helping military families. That makes them easy to be cast aside when negotiators write a compromise bill.

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