First lady Michelle Obama joined Labor Secretary Hilda Solis Monday to propose an expansion to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) that would give more job protection to military caregivers.
The proposed rules would allow spouses, parents and children of service members to care for their loved ones, attend military functions, or deal with child care and family finances “without fear of losing their jobs,”Solis said.
The expanded FMLA would include up to 12 weeks of leave from work to help a service member who has been deployed on short notice, as well as up to 26 weeks of leave to care for an injured or ill service member.
The proposed rules would also increase the number of days for rest and recuperation leave from five days to up to 15 days. This would enable caregivers to deal with the “unpredictability” of military life, Obama said.
Additionally, leave would be extended to family members of veterans for up to five years after leaving the military. The current law only covers caregivers of “currently serving” service members.
These proposals offer “more stability for the lives of caregivers,” said RyeAnne Noss, who joined Obama and Solis to describe her “journey as a caregiver” for her husband, Scot.
Noss described the day in February 2007 when her the Chinook helicopter her husband was riding in crashed in Afghanistan. Scot Noss survived, but he was severely injured.
“I didn’t know it at the time,” said RyeAnne Noss, but the same day Scot’s helicopter crashed, I became his caregiver.”
She now administers his medications, brushes his teeth and feeds him through a feeding tube.
Obama called families like the Nosses “inspiring.”
“These are men, women and children who will do anything for their loved ones. Spouses who put their lives and careers on hold. Moms and dads who spring into action. Children who put on a brace face.”
Obama said the proposed FMLA expansion is a chance to “recognize caregivers’ sacrifice without not just words, but with deeds.”