March 20, 2018

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

Follows Hirono Law Signed in 2016 Ensuring FAA and TSA Veterans Don’t Have To Choose Between A Paycheck And Getting The Care They Need

WASHINGTON, D.C. –  The U.S. Senate unanimously passed S. 899, a bill authored by Senators Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) to ensure veterans with a disability rating of 30% or higher who are hired by the 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 is common-sense legislation that will ensure the VA’s disabled veteran employees receive the same additional paid sick leave that is available to other federal agency employees,” said Senator Hirono. “The Senate today affirmed how important it is to eliminate barriers our disabled veterans face to continue serving our country at the VA as this critical agency works to fill tens of thousands of vacancies at its medical facilities in Hawaii and across the country.”

“The Senate took important steps today to help service-disabled veterans better transition into the federal workforce and civilian life,” said Senator Moran. “This legislation builds on the Wounded Warriors Federal Leave Act to make certain veterans who sustained wounds or injuries while defending our nation can take time off to seek medical treatment without impacting their livelihood or paycheck. Veterans in Kansas and across the country with service-related disabilities have earned greater flexibility in the workplace to receive the care they need, and I urge my colleagues in the House to quickly pass this sensible legislation.”  

“Veterans looking to serve their fellow veterans by working at the VA should not have to choose between a paycheck or a doctor’s appointment,” said Senator Tester, Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “This bipartisan bill strengthens workforce protections for our veterans and establishes better working conditions for those who fought for our freedoms.”

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, also known as the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Veteran Transition Improvement Act, 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 more than 12,000 veterans with a disability rating of 30% or higher. 

The VA Veteran 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, 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.