Duckworth, Houlahan, Speier Lead Bipartisan, Bicameral Letter Urging DoD to Follow Congressional Intent and Provide Equal Access to Parental Leave
[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Combat Veteran and U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), alongside U.S. Representatives Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA-06) and Jackie Speier (D-CA-14), led a bipartisan and bicameral letter urging the Department of Defense (DoD) to provide military moms with convalescent leave separately and apart from their guaranteed 12 weeks of parental leave, as Congress intended. Duckworth served in the Reserve Forces for 23 years and is chair of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) Subcommittee on Airland.
“We want to ensure that the Department’s implementation of this provision will maintain the historical separation of medical convalescent leave from parental leave (previously known as caregiver leave). Our military must support our servicemembers who are building a family - it is a matter of military readiness and national security,” wrote the Members. “Any attempt to overlap parental leave and convalescent leave would be contrary to congressional intent and would lead to additional congressional action if the Department is unwilling to implement this policy properly.”
In last year’s NDAA that was signed into law, Duckworth was instrumental in securing the provision to increase paid parental leave for our servicemembers, which is why she’s joining her colleagues in this effort to ensure the DoD implements the full intent of her provision. In addition to her advocacy for parental leave, Duckworth remains a fierce supporter of our servicemembers and authored several provisions in last year’s NDAA to tackle military hunger, enhance Air Force capacity, increase monthly incentive pay for Guardsmen and women as well as Reservists with critical skills, improve access to military child care and more.
Along with Duckworth, Houlahan and Speier, the letter was co-signed by U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) as well as U.S. Representatives Sara Jacobs (D-CA-53) and Stephanie Bice (R-OK-05).
A full copy of the letter is available here and below:
Dear Under Secretary Cisneros,
We write to encourage the Department to properly implement Sec. 621 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022, which expanded parental leave to 12 weeks for all servicemembers and removed the designation of primary and secondary caregiver status. We want to ensure that the Department’s implementation of this provision will maintain the historical separation of medical convalescent leave from parental leave (previously known as caregiver leave). Our military must support our servicemembers who are building a family - it is a matter of military readiness and national security.
The clear congressional intent of Sec. 621 is for parental leave to be equal for both the birth parent and nonbirth parent (or an adoptive or foster parent) and provided separate and apart from any medical convalescent leave received following childbirth. Convalescent leave is intended to provide time for healing for the birth parent, while parental leave is intended for bonding and adjusting to life with a child. Additionally, the newly designated paragraph (i)(7) of 10 USC § 701, states that medical convalescent leave is in addition to any other leave provided in that section. Given that a servicemember cannot be in two different leave statuses at the same time, language allowing for convalescent leave and parental leave to run concurrently would cause birth parents to receive 6 weeks of medical convalescent leave and only 6 weeks of parental leave, while the nonbirth parent would receive 12 weeks of parental leave. This inequity would only impact female servicemembers at a time when recruiting and retention of servicewomen already remains an issue.
The purpose of this provision was to expand leave for new parents, whether the birth parent or otherwise. Once implemented, we believe that birth parents should receive a minimum of 6 weeks of convalescent leave in addition to the 12 weeks of parental leave, for a minimum of 18 weeks of total leave, while non-birth, adoptive, and foster parents should receive the 12 weeks of parental leave. Any attempt to overlap parental leave and convalescent leave would be contrary to congressional intent and would lead to additional congressional action if the Department is unwilling to implement this policy properly.
This provision is critical to the retention and health of servicemembers and military families, and we have great interest in seeing it properly implemented. Families across the country should not have to worry or fear that time with their infants will be cut short simply because of a misinterpretation of the statute. I ask that you give this request your personal attention and ensure the forthcoming policy reflects congressional intent before implementation. We thank you for considering this request and for everything you do to ensure the readiness of our force and the wellbeing of our servicemembers.
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