President Barack Obama delivers a health care address to a joint session of Congress at the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C., Sept. 9, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

Kilmer co-sponsors Federal Worker Leave Fairness Act

Bill allows federal workers to carry over accrued leave when a pandemic prevents use

U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer of the 6th Congressional District has joined other legislators to introduce the Federal Worker Leave Fairness Act legislation in the U.S. House that will allow all federal workers to carry over the leave they have accrued when a national pandemic prevents employees from taking time off work.

Kilmer was a co-sponsor along with four other congresspeople from Virginia and Hawaii of the proposed bill.

Federal workers accruing more than 240 hours of annual leave either lose the hours above the cap or have to attempt to use it before the end of the year, according to Kilmer’s office. Using leave hours during a national pandemic may not be possible because a worker provides a critical government service for taxpayers, Kilmer said, needs to limit exposure to COVID-19, or follows state and local restrictions to limit the spread of the virus.

“Federal workers at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard have been working tirelessly throughout this pandemic to maintain the Navy’s readiness to respond to national security threats and have avoided unnecessary travel to minimize health risks that could threaten this important work,” Kilmer said in a news release.

The Federal Worker Leave Fairness Act was introduced in the U.S. Senate by Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), along with Sen. Patty Murray (D-Washington) and six other Democrats.

Kilmer also joined with other representatives to introduce legislation to help ensure disabled veterans are able to fully use their benefits amid disruptions in veterans’ health care during the pandemic.

In March, the COVID-19 pandemic caused many Veterans Affairs health care facilities to cancel or delay non-emergency in-person appointments, including a significant amount of the elective and non-essential medical procedures.

As VA facilities begin to work through a backlog of nearly six months of canceled or rescheduled appointments, Kilmer said, many disabled veterans are at risk of not being able to fully utilize their benefits due to previous rules limiting disabled veteran leave.

The Disabled Veteran Leave Extension/Restoration Act will extend the ability of veterans to use their disabled veteran leave and restore leave that has already been lost, the congressman said in a news release.

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