Veterans Benefits: What You Need to Know
The Service Members’ Civil Relief Act
Active service members, members of the National Guard and military reservists are generally eligible for benefits under the SCRA. The law makes certain allowances for service members that aren’t typically available to civilians. For example, service members are legally able to terminate residential, commercial or automotive lease agreements without repercussion, and the law also places a percentage cap on certain debts and related financial responsibilities.
The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Relief Act
The USERRA provides certain protections for members of the U.S. Armed Forces with regard to workplace discrimination, and it typically covers both current and past members of the U.S. Armed Forces. All business owners within the public and private sectors must adhere to the rules of USERRA. Essentially, the act stipulates that employers must reinstate employees who leave for active duty, provided that the term of absence does not exceed five years. A few exceptions do exist, however. For example, if the employee who left to serve his or her country was only employed for a short while, or if certain workplace changes make it virtually impossible to reinstate a service member’s former job, the employer may not be legally required to reinstate the employee after the absence.
Reemployment After Military Service: An Overview
Part-time soldiers are increasingly becoming the backbone of the U.S. Armed Forces, and in some cases, these individuals are called away on deployment for an extended period of time. Several legal protections exist for this population to lessen the burden of being called away from work and family. In addition to giving employees the right to reclaim their jobs after serving in the military, these individuals are also entitled to the same salary they were earning before taking the leave of absence. In order to reclaim their old positions, however, they may need to reapply. Those who took leaves of absence that were shorter than 31 days must return to work at the outset of the next standard work period, not including time spent traveling home and time set aside for an eight-hour rest period. In the event that a soldier was gone for more than 31 days, but less than 181, he or she must reapply for his or her old position within two weeks of completing the tour of duty. When the absence exceeds 180 days, the soldier has 90 days to reapply before forfeiting the position.
Medical Insurance Considerations for Members of the U.S. Armed Forces
There are a number of important considerations today’s employers must be aware of when it comes to providing medical insurance to service members returning from active duty. Those who are away from their positions for 30 days or less should not experience any interruptions or rate changes in medical insurance coverage. However, those who leave a position for periods that exceed 30 days will become covered under a military health care plan. It’s important that today’s employers note that military absences do not qualify as formal breaks in employment, meaning that even if the period away exceeds 30 days, the employee is still legally able to reenroll in a company health or medical insurance plan. Note, however, that employers are not required to offer coverage for injuries or sicknesses that result from military service, as these types of issues and ailments are typically covered by military plans.
Employee Obligations Before Taking a Military Leave of Absence
While service members are legally allowed to return to their positions provided they don’t take a leave of absence that exceeds five years, those who do so do have particular obligations when it comes to their places of employment. Though an exact time period is not stipulated, today’s soldiers are required to give their employers verbal or written notice about an upcoming military absence as far in advance as possible. Employers may ask for proof of the upcoming military service, and they are within their legal rights to do so.
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