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USERRA is Amended to Extend Health Care Coverage and Imposes New Notice Requirements on Employers

Volume 4, Issue 1
March 1, 2005

On December 10, 2004, President Bush signed into law the Veterans Benefits Improvement Act of 2004 ("Act"). This Act amends portions of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 ("USERRA") which provides reemployment protection and other benefits for veterans and employees who perform military services. The Act contains two major changes that employers should know about.

First, the Act extends the maximum period an employee can elect to continue coverage under his or her employer's sponsored health care plan while absent from work due to service in the military from 18 to 24 months, even if the employee is not otherwise covered by COBRA. This extended period applies to continuation coverage elections made after December 10, 2004. Employees who elect to continue health care coverage can be charged up to 102% of the full premium under the health care plan. However, if an employee is absent from work for less than 31 days, the employee cannot be charged more than the employee's normal share of the cost for health care coverage.

Second, under the new Act, employers must provide employees with notice of their current rights, benefits and obligations under USERRA. This can be accomplished by posting a notice of USERRA rights in locations where other employee notices customarily are posted. The Department of Labor is formulating a new model notice, before this new requirement goes into effect on March 10, 2005.

Employer Report articles are for general information only; they are not intended and should not be construed to be legal advice. Reading or replying to such articles does not establish an attorney-client relationship. In addition, because the subject matters and applicable laws discussed in Employer Report articles are often in a state of change and not always applicable to every type of business entity or organization, readers should consult with counsel before making decisions based on the same.