Tester Introduces Bill to Provide Disabled Veteran Employees at VA Additional Paid Leave

Follows Hirono Law Signed in 2016 Ensuring FAA and TSA Veterans Don't Have To Choose Between A Paycheck And Getting The Care They Need

(U.S. Senate) – U.S. Senator Jon Tester introduced the bipartisan Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Veteran Transition Improvement Act, to ensure veterans with a disability rating of 30% or higher who are hired by the VA in critical medical positions can access additional paid sick leave during their first year on the job for the purposes of receiving medical care related to their service-connected condition.

“This bill will help veterans make the difficult transition back to civilian life, and it will ensure the folks who served this nation aren’t punished for getting the care they have earned,” Senator Tester said. “Veterans have made tremendous sacrifices to defend our freedoms and it is critical that they can access the care they need.”

One hundred and four hours of additional paid sick leave has been available to newly hired eligible veterans at other federal agencies since the Wounded Warriors Federal Leave Act became effective in November 2016. The law currently applies to most federal agencies, but as certain federal personnel laws do not automatically apply to certain VA medical positions, the additional sick leave will not apply to these positions without a legislative change.

The legislation will ensure that moving forward, all newly hired VA physicians, physician assistants, registered nurses, chiropractors, podiatrists, optometrists, dentists and expanded-function dental auxiliaries who are disabled veterans will have parity with their federal counterparts and will not have to face the financial hardship of taking unpaid leave to receive necessary medical treatment. 

“It is imperative that our great nation protects veterans seeking medical treatment for service-connected disabilities from discrimination or reprisal,” said Charles E. Schmidt, National Commander, The American Legion. “Under the current Wounded Warrior Federal Leave Act, disabled veterans employed by the VA do not enjoy the same benefits as other veterans who are federal employees. Specifically, the law as currently written excludes them from participating in the paid sick leave program available to other veteran federal employees.”

The VA Veteran Transition Improvement Act is also supported by the National Association of VA Physicians and Dentists (NAVAPD), Nurses Organization of Veterans Affairs (NOVA), Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), Disabled American Veterans, National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE) and the Federal Managers Association (FMA).

Senators Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) were also cosponsors of the law.