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New Rules on Military Caregiver Leave Move Forward New Rules on Military Caregiver Leave Move Forward

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HEALTH CARE

New Rules on Military Caregiver Leave Move Forward

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First Lady Michelle Obama waves to the crowd before her husband's State of the Union address on January 25, 2011. She introduced changes to the FMLA that would make it easier for caregivers of veterans to get time off.(Chet Susslin)

The U.S. Labor Department issued proposed rules on Monday that would make it easier for military caregivers to take time off. The proposed amendments to the Family and Medical Leave Act would also make it easier for airline flight crew members to receive unpaid, job-protected leave.

“We're here because we want to recognize the extraordinary dedication, sacrifice, and service of our nation's caregivers, not simply with words but with deeds,” first lady Michelle Obama said at a ceremony to announce the new leave provisions for military families.

 

“The rules they’ve proposed under the Family and Medical Leave Act will help more military family members take the time they need to care for their loved ones,” Obama said. "You see, these new rules now also include veterans. If you’ve served in the past five years and you’re still dealing with a serious injury, a qualifying member of your family can now take time off from work to care for you."

The Family and Medical Leave Act makes it possible for eligible employees to take unpaid leave for various family and medical reasons, including 26 weeks of unpaid leave per year to care for a family member injured while serving in the military.The act was amended in 2009 to expand military caregiver leave provisions and adjust rules regarding the time that employees can take off when a family member is called up for active duty.

The new amendments allow veterans’ family members to take military caregiver leave up to five years after a family member returns home from active duty; make the definition of "serious injury or illness" more flexible; and allow caregivers to take time off to look after service members or veterans with preexisting conditions made worse by military service, according to the Labor Department’s website.

 

The amendments also changed the rules surrounding other types of leave that military family members are allowed to take, such as when a spouse or child is unexpectedly called up for active duty. The new amendments extend this category of leave to family members of men and women serving in the regular armed forces, in addition to the National Guard or Reserves, and there is a new foreign-deployment requirement, the department's website said.

“The department estimates that 15,500 eligible employees will take 854,000 days, or 6.8 million hours, of leave annually to act as a caregiver for a veteran who is undergoing treatment for a serious illness or injury,” Bloomberg News reported, citing Labor Department statistics.

The proposed rules would also implement Family and Medical Leave Act amendments that make it easier for airline flight crew members to receive unpaid, job-protected leave.

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