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Congress Passes Hirono-Moran-Tester Bill to Provide Service Disabled Veteran Employees at VA Additional Paid Leave

Follows Hirono Law Signed in 2016 Ensuring FAA & TSA Veterans Don’t Have to Choose Between a Paycheck & Getting the Care They Need

WASHINGTON, D.C.- The U.S. House and Senate unanimously passed the Veterans Providing Healthcare Transition Improvement Act (S. 899), a bipartisan bill authored by Senators Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) to ensure veterans with a disability rating of 30% or higher who are hired by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in critical medical positions can access additional paid sick leave during their first year on the job for the purposes of receiving medical care related to their service-connected condition.

“This common-sense legislation will ensure the VA’s disabled veteran employees receive the same additional paid sick leave that is available to other federal agency employees,” Senator Hirono said. “In passing this bill, Congress reaffirmed the importance of eliminating barriers for our disabled veterans so they may continue to serve our country. The VA is a critical agency and we need to continue to find ways to fill tens of thousands of vacancies at its medical facilities in Hawaii and across the country. I urge the President to swiftly sign this legislation into law.”

“Providing men and women with service-related disabilities greater flexibility to pursue medical care is a sensible and important way to show our gratitude for protecting our freedoms, and I am pleased Congress is now sending this bill to the president’s desk,” Senator Moran said. “This legislation – which builds on the Wounded Warriors Federal Leave Act signed into law in 2015 – will help better assist service-disabled veterans in Kansas and across the country during their transitions into the federal workforce and civilian life.”

“When veterans serve their fellow veterans, the results are incredible,” Senator Tester said. “This bipartisan bill ensures fairness and delivers important benefits to the men and women who choose to work in the nation’s largest health care system.”

“Our nation’s veterans, especially those caring for their fellow veterans as medical professionals at the VA, should not be forced to choose between their jobs or receiving health care for their service-connected disabilities,” Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Department of Hawaii Commander Maria B. Va’a-Igafo said. “The VFW Department of Hawaii thanks Senator Hirono for her leadership in passing legislation to ensure veterans working at the VA have access to the paid leave they have earned to get the care they need and deserve.”

“SEIU NAGE strives to support legislation that benefits veterans and VA federal workers alike,” said Shari Cuaresma, Hawaii Region National Representative for the Service Employees International Union National Association of Government Employees (SEIU NAGE) which represents over 900 employees at the VA Pacific Islands Health Care System in Hawaii. “SEIU NAGE has represented several veterans who are now federal employees, and have faced attendance issues as a result of service-connected disabilities.  We fight for their continued employment while they obtain the medical services they need.  SEIU NAGE is pleased to see Congress pass Senator Hirono’s Veterans Providing Healthcare Transition Improvement Act and appreciates her leadership in working to extend paid medical leave for our VA Title 38 Employees who are disabled veterans.”

One hundred and four hours of additional paid sick leave have been available to newly hired eligible veterans at other federal agencies since the Wounded Warriors Federal Leave Act became effective in November 2016. The law currently applies to most federal agencies, but as certain federal personnel laws do not automatically apply to certain VA medical positions, the additional sick leave will not be legally required for these positions without a legislative change.

The Hirono-Moran-Tester legislation will ensure that moving forward, all newly hired VA physicians, physician assistants, registered nurses, chiropractors, podiatrists, optometrists, dentists and expanded-function dental auxiliaries who are disabled veterans will have parity with their federal counterparts and will not have to face the financial hardship of taking unpaid leave to receive necessary medical treatment. Hawaii is home to approximately 15,000 veterans with a disability rating of 30% or higher according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Representatives Steve Stivers (R-Ohio) and Mark Takano (D-Calif.) sponsored the House companion bill, H.R. 2648.

The Veterans Providing Healthcare Transition Improvement Act is supported by the Hawaii Disability Rights Center, National Association of VA Physicians and Dentists (NAVAPD), Nurses Organization of Veterans Affairs (NOVA), American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), Disabled American Veterans (DAV), Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), AMVETS, American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE), Service Employees International Union National Association of Government Employees (SEIU NAGE), and the Federal Managers Association (FMA).

In October 2016, President Barack Obama signed into law Senator Hirono’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Veteran Transition Improvement Act (Public Law 114-242) which extended rights to additional paid sick leave to new disabled veteran employees of the FAA and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Senators Moran and Tester were also cosponsors of the law.