Legislation to strengthen a law protecting the employment rights of veterans and military servicemembers has been introduced in the Senate.
The legislation, called the Servicemembers Rights Enforcement Improvement Act, “will help force the hand of those who have failed to follow the law when it comes to providing our nation’s heroes with the basic safeguards they deserve,” said Sen. Patty Murray, (D-Wa.), chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, who introduced the bill on Wednesday.
The legislation is meant to improve enforcement of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, known as USERRA, which mandates that service members not be denied jobs or otherwise be penalized by employers because of their military obligations.
The federal government, the nation’s largest employer of veterans, is also the biggest offender of the law, The Washington Post reported in February.
The legislation would provide the Office of Special Counsel with authority to subpoena relevant testimony and documents from federal employees and agencies to carry out investigations.
It would also enable the Justice Department to investigate and file suit against employers showing a pattern or practice of USERRA violations.
Last month, John Berry, director of the Office of Personnel Management, issued a memo to senior federal executives calling for zero tolerance for federal violations of the USERRA.
Murray’s bill would also strengthen protections for servicemembers who are improperly overcharged or foreclosed upon by banks.
The proposed legislation is being supported by several veterans organizations.
“Servicemembers who currently seek relief under these acts often face significant roadblocks,” said Paul Rieckhoff, founder and executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. “Even if a violation exists, it can be difficult and expensive for vets to challenge employers armed with greater legal and financial resources.”