On October 28, 2009, President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010. This law contains provisions that further expand the recent extension of the Family and Medical Leave Act to cover certain military-related situations. It is effective immediately.
First, the new law expands the scope of those who can seek the new leave for a “qualifying exigency” arising out of a family member’s active duty or call to active duty. Previously, this applied to an employee whose spouse, son, daughter or parent was on active duty in the National Guard or Reserves in support of a declared “contingency operation.” The amendment expands this leave to also cover eligible family members of those serving on active duty in any regular component of the Armed Forces (the Army, Air Force, Navy or Marines) in any foreign country.
Second, military caregiver leave provisions now cover families of veterans. The recent amendments did not change the basic entitlement: 26 weeks of protected leave to care for certain service members, those undergoing treatment or therapy for, or recuperating from, a serious injury or illness incurred in the line of duty while on active duty. The new law expands this entitlement to cover the need for this leave during the first five (5) years following the service member’s discharge from the military if the veteran is undergoing treatment for or recuperating from a serious injury incurred in the line of duty while on active duty. Thus, the amendment covers an illness or injury that is service-related if it manifests itself within five (5) years of discharge.
Third, the new law expands the definition of “serious injury or illness” to include injuries and illnesses that are “aggravated by” active duty service.
The Department of Labor is revising its on-line advice website in light of the recent changes to the law, and regulations are also expected on the new law. For more information see http://www.dol.gov/whd/fmla/NDAA_fmla.htm.