Friday, February 22, 2008

Extended Leave for Military Families

Benjamin Franklin must have been really thinking way ahead when he said that “necessity is the mother of invention”. But it is true, people sometimes create solutions in answer to problems they themselves created.
Reading through the article, “Family and Medical Leave Amended to Protect Military Families”, posted on February 1, I cannot help asking myself for whose interest this amendment truly serves. Two things come to my mind. Was this created to help military families? Or is this in support of the war efforts?
The article refers to the amendment made to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) which was recently signed into law by President Bush on January 28 this year. The amendment “allows an employee to take up to 26 workweeks of leave to care for an injured or ill member of the family who is a covered member of the military”.
The act also permits an employee to take 12 weeks of FMLA leave for ‘any qualifying exigency’, which applies to situations such as when a family member “has been notified of an impending call or order to active duty in support of a contingency operation”. While this provision is still pending approval, the Secretary of Labor however encourages employees to avail of this particular leave provision.
To qualify for the leave extension, the military member that requires care must be “undergoing medical treatment, recuperation, or therapy, is otherwise in outpatient status, or is otherwise on the temporary disability retired list, for a serious injury or illness”. Also, the injury or illness must have been incurred by members in the line of duty during active service.
Moreover, employees who are eligible to take this extended leave are a "spouse, son, daughter, parent, or next of kin [the nearest blood relative]" of the injured or ill service member.
I agree and support the idea of granting employees their due, including their leaves and other benefits, but isn’t it ironic to say we are giving “protections” to people when we actually send them to war and after getting injured, allow their family members to avail of an extended leave?
Caring for a wounded or injured war hero is admirable but in the long run, wouldn’t it be better to spend money on worker’s benefits or wages rather than on arms, nuke bombs or gilded coffins?