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Wounded veterans starting federal jobs would get sick leave under new bill

Wounded veterans hired by the federal government would start their jobs with a stockpile of paid sick leave under a new bill introduced in Congress this week.

The bipartisan measure would give service-disabled veterans 104 hours of paid sick time after they enter the federal workforce; non-veteran employees begin with none and accrue hours over time.

Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.), who sponsored the bill, said in a joint statement with other House supporters this week that new veteran hires, many of whom return from multiple tours of duty with post-traumatic stress disorder and other health issues, often start their jobs without paid leave for medical appointments to treat their service-related disabilities.

“It is unacceptable that our wounded warrior federal employees who are just starting out in the federal workforce are often faced with the difficult choice of having to take unpaid leave to attend their VA appointments or miss their medical visits,” Lynch said.

Six other members of the House have signed on as co-sponsors of the legislation: Reps. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), Blake Farenthold (R-Texas), Walter Jones (R-N.C.), and Del. Eleanor Norton (D-D.C.).

Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Jerry Moran (R-Texas) plan to introduce companion legislation in the Senate soon, according to the statement.

The Federal Managers Association has backed the proposal. Group president Patricia Niehaus said in a statement this week that agency supervisors “have seen first-hand the stress these new employees face as they struggle with their disability on top of the demands of their jobs.”

Niehaus added that “it is only right that the federal government provides this much-needed leave” for wounded veterans who served their country on and off the battlefield.

The House bill would apply to former troops who qualify as 30 percent disabled by the Department of Veterans Affairs and are in their first year of work with a federal agency. To qualify for the early sick leave, they would have to submit certification to their agency.

The legislation would also allow veterans to carry over any of the 104 hours they do not use in a given year.

“These men and women have made incredible sacrifices to defend our freedom and have been wounded as a result,” Jones said in the statement. “They deserve an adequate amount of time to tend to their wounds while beginning a new chapter in their careers after they leave the military.”