The Veterans’ Employment and Training Service has proposed the first major, official guidance for users of the federal law that protects returning reservists’ jobs and benefits.[@@]
The law, the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994, 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.
The same USERRA provisions apply to employees who are not in the reserves but decide to sign up for regular active-duty military service.
Officials at VETS, an arm of the U.S. Department of Labor, emphasize in the introduction to a discussion of the proposed regulation that employers and others governed by USERRA are supposed to continue to follow the spirit of the U.S. Supreme Court’s admonition about prior veterans’ rights laws.
“This legislation is to be liberally construed for the benefit of those who left private life to serve their country in its hour of great need,” VETS officials write, quoting from a 1946 Supreme Court ruling.
VETS officials have published the proposed USERRA regulation today in the Federal Register.
One major section deals with health benefits rights and another major section deals with rights related to 401(k) plans, defined benefit pension plans and other retirement plans.
The health insurance section of the proposed USERRA regulation notes that USERRA cannot help soldiers and their families continue or get back individual health insurance coverage or coverage purchased through associations, clubs or other family members’ employers.