Senate Holds Hearings on USERRA

Thursday, January 1, 2009
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On Nov. 7, 2007, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, chairman of the United States Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, held a hearing to address employment challenges that service members face when returning from a tour of duty.

The hearing focused on the enforcement of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), which requires employers to continue to employ members of the Guard and Reserve upon their return from duty. There are four federal agencies that are responsible for the oversight and implementation of veterans' employment rights: the Departments of Labor, Defense and Justice, as well as the Office of Special Counsel.

Data, previously withheld from the public, were released the hearing. The data demonstrated serious inadequacies in the performance of the four federal agencies responsible for protecting returning veterans' reemployment rights.

Among the findings:

* Nearly 11,000 were denied prompt reemployment.

* More than 22,000 lost seniority and thus pay and other benefits.

* Nearly 20,000 saw their pensions cut.

* More than 15,000 didn't receive the training they needed to return to their former jobs.

* In 2006, 77 percent of reservists and National Guardsmen with reemployment problems reported not seeking assistance of any kind. (This indicates agencies' failure to educate/reach out to returning servicemen to inform them of their rights.)

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* Almost half of reservists (44 percent) and National Guardsmen who filed a USERRA complaint with the Department of Labor reported being dissatisfied with DOL's handling of their case ? up from 27 percent dissatisfaction in 2004 ? and more than a third reported that DOL's response was not prompt.

* 23 percent of reservists and National Guardsmen surveyed in 2006 who could not find a job post-deployment said that they were unemployed because their previous employer did not promptly rehire them as required by law.

To view the full hearings, click on this link.

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