New Proposal Would Expand Support for Military Caregivers

Feb 02 2012

First Lady Michelle Obama announces measures to increase support for caregivers of wounded, ill and injured service members at the Labor Department in Washington, D.C., Jan. 30, 2012. These proposed rules would, in part, enable more military family members to take the time they need to care for their loved ones without fear of career repercussions. DOD photo by Elaine Sanchez

First Lady Michelle Obama today announced a series of measures intended to increase the nation’s support for caregivers of wounded, ill and injured service members.

Joined by Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis and senior military leaders, Obama announced the Labor Department’s proposal to expand military family leave protections under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

These proposed rules will, in part, enable more military family members to take the time they need to care for their loved ones without fear of career repercussions, the first lady said.

The Labor Department’s proposed expansions of the Family and Medical Leave Act will help more caregivers of troops and veterans tend to their wounded loved ones, Solis explained. FMLA, enacted in 1993, enables eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons.

The proposal will, in part:

  • Extend the 26-week unpaid leave entitlement to family members caring for recent veterans with a serious injury or illness incurred in the line of duty, including conditions that may arise up to five years after leaving the military;
  • Allow family members to take time off from work before, during or after a spouse, child or parent’s deployment to tend to service-related matters, such as military briefings or making financial and legal arrangements; and
  • Increase the amount of time an employee may take to spend with a loved one who is on rest or recuperation leave from five days to up to 15 days.

The Labor Department’s proposal is just a few of many steps the Obama administration is taking to support caregivers, the first lady noted, citing legislation the president signed to help caregivers receive stipends, training, counseling and other assistance. The Defense and Labor departments also have strengthened their caregiver support, she said, working together to support caregivers whose loved ones are dealing with TBIs and post-traumatic stress.

Additionally, she added, the VA has helped caregivers receive health insurance and helps connect them with support coordinators who can direct them to resources.

But the government can’t do it alone, Mrs. Obama said, citing examples of how other individuals and organizations are stepping up to help.

Building on successful pilot programs at Fort Belvoir, Va., and Fort Carson, Colo., the USO, Hire Heroes USA and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce plan to host 14 career opportunity days focused on the employment of wounded, ill and injured warriors, their spouses and caregivers.

The Chamber of Commerce’s new Military Spouse Business Alliance has committed to hosting a career forum and hiring fair exclusively for wounded warriors, their spouses and caregivers at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., in May.

Finally, Operation Homefront and the Semper Fi Fund, both nonprofit organizations, have added volunteer opportunities that support caregivers and their families to the Joining Forces website.

Read the full release from the Department of Defense.

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