The Wounded Warriors Federal Leave Act of 2015 was signed into law on November 5. The Office of Personnel Management recently released guidance detailing which federal employees will receive benefits from this new legislation and how it works.
The information that follows is taken from OPM’s guidance, memorandum CPM 2015-11.
The legislation provides a separate new leave category, to be known as “disabled veteran leave,” to any new Federal employee who is a veteran with a service-connected disability rated at 30 percent or more for purposes of undergoing medical treatment for such disability for which sick leave could regularly be used. Disabled veteran leave is available during the first 12 months of employment and may not exceed 104 hours. Disabled veteran leave not used during the first 12 months of employment may not be carried over to subsequent years and will be forfeited.
Who is Eligible?
It is important to note that the new leave category will only apply to new federal employees hired on or after November 5, 2016.
Disabled veteran leave is also available to employees of the United States Postal Service and the Postal Regulatory Commission. However, as the Act does not apply to employees not covered by title 5 leave provisions, disabled veteran leave is not available to non-title 5 employees such as employees of the Federal Aviation Administration and Transportation Security Administration. Congress did not include a provision that makes disabled veteran leave available retroactively or to current Federal employees. The Act defines the following terms –
- Employee. Has the same meaning as provided for in the definition of employee under section 2105 of title 5, United States Code, and also includes employees of the United States Postal Service and the Postal Regulatory Commission.
- Veteran. Means a person who served in the active military, naval, or air service, and who was discharged or released under conditions other than dishonorable.
- Service-Connected. Refers to a disability that was incurred or aggravated in the line of duty in the active military, naval, or air service.
Disabled Veteran Leave Certification
In order to verify that disabled veteran leave is used for treatment of a service-connected disability, an eligible employee must submit certification issued by a health care provider that the employee used such leave for purposes of receiving treatment for the service-connected disability.
Regulations and Effective Date
The Act requires the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to issue implementing regulations covering employees other than those employed by the United States Postal Service and the Postal Regulatory Commission no later than 9 months after the date of enactment. The new leave category of disabled veteran leave is not immediately available as the Act provides for a delayed effective date. Under the Act, the provisions of the new category of disabled veteran leave will apply with respect to any new Federal civilian employee “hired on or after the date that is 1 year after the date of enactment of this Act.” Therefore, the new leave category will be available to new Federal civilian employees hired on or after November 5, 2016.
What About Current Employees?
While current Federal employees are not eligible for disabled veteran leave, Executive Order 5396, July 17, 1930, provides that disabled veterans are entitled to leave without pay for necessary medical treatment. In addition, a disabled veteran has a wide range of leave options and workplace flexibilities available to take time off from work to receive medical treatment for his or her disability, such as annual leave, sick leave,advanced annual leave or advanced sick leave, leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), donated leave under the voluntary leave transfer program, alternative work schedules,credit hours under flexible work schedules, compensatory time off and telework. If established by the employing agency, a voluntary leave bank program may also be an option for an employee needing to take time away from work.