NU Online News Service, Aug. 26, 2004, 4:13 p.m. EDT

The federal Veterans’ Employment and Training Service is starting a survey program to measure employer compliance with the federal law that protects returning reservists’ jobs and benefits.[@@]

The law, the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, requires private employers of all sizes to give reservists’ families a chance to buy continuation health coverage while the reservists are away for periods of up to 5 years.

USERRA also requires employers to hold jobs open for reservists and offer returning reservists the same salary increases, health benefits and retirement benefits that the reservists would have earned if the reservists had stayed home rather than taking military leave.

Today, VETS has no good “outcome measure” for identifying problems with USERRA compliance, VETS says in its Fiscal Year 2005 Performance Budget.

VETS plans to survey returning reservists and members of the National Guard to determine how well they understand their USERRA rights and whether employers are complying with USERRA.

“Problems could involve lack of knowledge on the part of employers or protected persons or a disproportionate number of complaints received concerning a specific provision of USERRA,” VETS says in the Performance Budget.

VETS notes in the budget that one crude measure, the number of USERRA cases opened by VETS, rose to about 1,400 in fiscal year 2004, up from 895 in fiscal year 2001.

The budget document is on the Web at http://www.dol.gov/vets/VETS%2005%20Cong%20J%20Final.pdf