Last week, before passing the children's health insurance bill H.R.976 (called the "SCHIP Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2007"), the Senate unanimously adopted two amendments that would expand family and medical leave to family caregivers of injured service members. The amendments were sponsored by three Democratic candidates for President -- U.S. Senators Barack Obama (D-IL), Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Hillary Clinton (D-NY).
Proponents of expanding leave for military caregivers were bolstered by a recent reportfrom the President's Commission on Care for America's Returning Wounded Warriors, which recommended expanding the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to provide up to 6 months of leave for family members caring for injured service members.
One of the amendments would expand FMLA to allow a spouse, son, daughter, parent or next of kin of an injured service member to take up to 26 weeks of leave to provide care for their loved one. Taking another different approach, the Senate also adopted a second amendment that would provide up to 52 weeks of employment protections to family members caring for injured service members.
Since the military leave provisions are unrelated to the underlying children's health insurance bill, it is not clear whether or not these two amendments will be retained in the final version of the legislation. The House-passed version of the children's health insurance bill does not include military leave provisions.
However, regardless of what happens in the children's health insurance bill, proponents of expanding leave for military families could push these proposals again when the Senate takes up the Defense Authorization bill in September.
While efforts to expand the FMLA cause concern amongst HR professionals, SHRM recognizes this is an important issue for military families and continues to explore ways to address these concerns.