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A National Policy Win for Military Families

October 28, 2009

The Family Values @ Work Consortium, a network of 14 state coalitions working on policies such as paid sick days and affordable family leave, applauds the inclusion of expanded caregiving time for military families in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), signed yesterday by President Obama.

“This is the first of many wins we expect to see in our Valuing Families Agenda,” said Ellen Bravo, Executive Director of Family Values @ Work Consortium (FVAW).

The new provision, introduced in the Senate by Sen. Chris Dodd and in the House by Cong. Lynn Woolsey, will amend the Family and Medical Leave Act’s (FMLA) military family provisions first enacted in Fiscal Year 2008, allowing primary caregivers of military members to take up to 26 weeks of unpaid leave to care for the wounded service member. Today’s law will extend the time in which the family member can take such leave, and expand the scope of those who would be covered by exigency leave provisions.
A family member can now take leave within a five-year period if necessary to care for a veteran after he or she leaves service if that soldier develops a service-related injury or illness that was incurred, or aggravated while on active duty. In addition, exigency leave is extended to active duty members in regular military service. Current Department of Labor (DOL) regulations limit access to exigency leave to Reserve and National Guard members only. That means families of deployed service members can take time to manage their family or personal affairs while the service member is deployed.

The Valuing Families Agenda, which FVAW initiated along with the National Partnership for Women & Families, has been signed by more than 50 organizations women, labor, business, faith, children, aging and caregiver groups.

“Military families face a dramatic form of what the majority of families experience in the U.S. today,” Bravo said. “They need time to care for loved ones without losing income or a job.”

Bravo pointed out that the organizations developed this Valuing Families Agenda because public policies have not kept up with the dramatic work and life changes that America has seen in recent decades. “There is broad need and support for a fundamental transformation of workplace policies,” she said. “This win is a step in that direction.”

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