Monday morning, wounded warriors, military families and caregivers, and Armed Forces leadership filed into a Department of Labor auditorium anxiously awaiting the arrival of First Lady Michelle Obama. Mrs. Obama joined Labor Secretary Hilda Solis to announce the U.S. Department of Labor is issuing a notice to amend the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This amendment is intended to ease the fear of military caregivers losing their jobs as they tend to their wounded, ill and injured Service member.
The newly proposed rules consist of an expanded 26 week military caregiver leave. This amendment also includes severely injured and ill veterans whose conditions arise after they have separated from the military. Specifically, this expansion applies to current Service members and veterans with a serious injury or illness incurred in the line of duty, including conditions that may arise up to 5 years after leaving the military.
Mrs. Obama said that caregivers deserve recognition in the form of deeds not words. She went on to emphasize the proposal focuses on flexibility and helping military families and caregivers deal with the unpredictability of military life.
Ryanne Noss experienced this exact unpredictability in 2007. At the time, she was a doctoral candidate at Auburn University while her husband, Army Sergeant First Class Scot Noss, was serving with the Army’s 3rd Ranger Battalion on his eighth deployment in Afghanistan. SFC Noss suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) as the result of a helicopter crash. Mrs. Noss suddenly was thrust into the role as a round-the-clock caregiver for her husband.
“It’s a great day for caregivers. Today gives stability and certainty,” Noss said as an advocate for those trying to help their loved ones reach their full rehabilitation potential.
Also included in the proposed regulatory provisions is coverage for family members of the recently deployed to take up to 12 weeks leave to take care of financial, legal and child care issues, as well as spending time with their Service member during recuperation.
The First Lady called on everyone to step-up in support of caregivers. She went on to highlight the government’s continuing efforts to improve post traumatic stress disorder and TBI care. Mrs. Obama also emphasized the Administration’s commitment to jobs for veterans and military spouses along with the private sector support to this effort. She praised the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s collaboration with the USO and Hire Heroes USA to host more than ten Career Opportunity Days around the country.
For Service members and military families who have yet to benefit from the efforts of their local community Mrs. Obama promises the support of the Departments of Defense and Labor and Joining Forces is on its way
For additional information on the FMLA Statutory Amendments, please visit the Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division’s Notice.