Tens of thousands of VA workers left out of family leave benefits could soon see a fix

Veterans Affairs workers left out of new parental leave benefits granted to other federal workers last year could see that oversight fixed under legislation moving through the House.

Last week, House Veterans’ Affairs Committee ranking member Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., introduced the VA Family Leave Act, to include physicians, nurses and a host of other health care professionals from the department whose positions weren’t originally included in the parental leave measure.

“Providing these hardworking men and women caring for our heroes with the benefits they have earned when they add a child to their families is unquestionably the right thing to do,” Roe said in a statement.

More than 90,000 VA employees could be affected by the change. No timetable has been set for vote on either piece of legislation.

Roe’s push follows the mark-up of a similar but broader measure already advanced by the House Oversight and Reform Committee. That legislation, sponsored by New York Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney, would include not just VA workers but also some federal courts and congressional employees.

The overarching family leave legislation, included in the annual defense authorization bill last year, was signed into law in December. It provides 12 weeks of paid leave for federal workers to care for a newborn, adopting a child or fostering a minor.

Workers must have held their current government post for at least one year and must commit to at least 12 more weeks of work after their leave to be eligible for the benefit. The new provision goes into effect Oct. 1.

But because of issues with how VA medical employees are classified in the federal system, many of them were not eligible for the new benefit under the original bill. Some Federal Aviation Administration and Transportation Security Administration officials were also excluded.

Roe said his measure would ensure all VA workers will be able to access the leave, bringing the department on par with most other federal agencies. Numerous House Democrats have already voiced support for Maloney’s broader measure.

President Donald Trump touted the family leave provisions as a victory for federal workers when he finalized the defense authorization bill last year.

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