Families Play Critical Role in Recovery of Wounded Soldiers (Rep. Phil Hare)

Former Senator Bob Dole and former Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala, who led President Bush’s Commission on Care for America’s Returning Wounded Warriors, testified before the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee yesterday to offer their recommendations about how we can better care for our injured servicemembers.

Among many of their findings, the Dole-Shalala Commission discovered, not surprisingly, that family members play a critical role in the recovery of our wounded servicemembers. According to the Commission’s report, 33 percent of active duty servicemembers claim a family member or close friend relocated for extended periods of time to help in their recoveries. It also points out that 21 percent of active duty servicemembers say that their friends or family members gave up jobs to find the time to care for them. Therefore, the Commission called on Congress to amend the Family Medical Leave Act to allow up to six months leave for a family member of a servicemember who has a combat-related injury.

Tuesday, Senators Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) testified before the Education and Labor Workforce Protections Subcommittee about their bill, the Support for Injured Servicemembers Act, which would do just that. Subcommittee Chairwoman Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) has companion legislation in the House.

This legislation declares that workers should never be forced to choose between the jobs they need and the families they love. Military families must already endure the undue stress that comes with knowing their loved ones are in harm's way in Iraq and Afghanistan. Congress has a responsibility to ease this burden by allowing relatives of injured servicemembers to take time off work with the knowledge that their jobs are secure.

Our servicemen and women and their families continue to sacrifice so much for this nation. Granting them reasonable family medical leave is the least we can do in return.

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