This article provides information on your rights as an employee, job options for you and your family member if he or she is unable to return to duty, and how to balance work and caregiving.
What is the Family and Medical Leave Act?
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides service members/ veterans and their spouses who are employed by companies with 50 or more employees with up to 26 weeks of unpaid leave per year to care for a seriously-injured service member without losing their jobs or health care insurance.
This act may have small adjustments periodically. Please see the Web site for most current information.
Check with your company’s human resources department about your eligibility for unpaid leave under the FMLA. Know your company’s caregiver leave policies. Explore alternative working arrangements, such as flexible hours, working from home, reduced hours, etc.
“Our employers did let us work remotely when my husband and I took turns being with our son in Texas. It did get a little dicey there for a little while, but they were very supportive. We were very fortunate. I’ve talked to many people who just quit their jobs, you know? Some people will just automatically quit their jobs and assume that their employer is not going to be there for them. We have to be here with our son or daughter.
Many employers are willing to work with you, too; maybe not indefinitely. But it’s certainly an avenue to pursue because it does keep you connected to something a little bit normal, or just to a network of people who just want to be there for you. Both of those things were very helpful to us.”
— Pam E.
Some states and employers have more extensive policies regarding leave for caregiving. To see what your state policies are, check out:
- Family and Medical Leave Act site
- National Partnership for Women & Families
- State specific Web sites or offices.
Can I Receive Public Benefits if I Lose My Job?
- If you lose your job because caregiving is demanding too much of your time, check out unemployment benefits. They can provide some income while you look for other work.
- You may also be eligible for other public benefits such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Supplementtal Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly Food Stamps), and Women Infants and Children (WIC) supplemental food benefits (if you have children up to age 5).
- Look in the government pages of your local telephone directory for the appropriate agency that administers these programs in your community.
Can I Get Help in Finding a Job?
You and your injured family member can get help finding a job. There is support available if you are seeking employment. This support recognizes the important contribution that both you and your family member have made in service to the United States.
Start by checking with your installation’s support services. Depending on your service member/veteran’s service branch, your Fleet and Family Support Center, Marine Corps Community Services, Airman and Family Readiness Center, or Army Community Service Center can provide you with information and support.
A good starting place is the National Resource Directory (www. nationalresourcedirectory.org). It is a collaborative effort between the Departments of Defense, Labor, and Veterans Affairs.
The directory is a Web-based network of care coordinators, providers, and support partners with resources for wounded, ill, and injured service members, veterans, their families, families of the fallen, and those who support them.
The Directory offers more than 10,000 medical and non-medical services and resources to help service members and veterans achieve personal and professional goals along their journey from recovery through rehabilitation to community reintegration.
The National Resource Directory is organized into six major categories:
- Benefits and Compensation
- Education, Training, and Employment
- Family and Caregiver Support
- Housing and Transportation
- Services and Resources.
It also provides helpful checklists, Frequently Asked Questions, and connections to peer support groups. All information on the Web site can be found through a general or state and local search tool.
Other supportive services include:
The Military Spouse Resource Center is a Web-based service provided by the Department of Defense and the Department of Labor. It provides information about education, training, and employment, as well as child care and transportation.
Also take a look at the Military Spouse JobSearch Web site. It can help you find companies that are committed to hiring military spouses. It also allows you to search for jobs by the name of a military base.
Military Spouse JobSearch also provides job search resources for people with disabilities, in the event that your service member is not able to return to duty due to disability. Other resources for veterans include federal government positions. The government’s Office of Personnel Management provides information on job opportunities for veterans at www.opm.gov/veterans.
Operation IMPACT was launched by Northrop Grumman. The program provides transition support to service members severely injured in OEF/OIF and helps them identify career opportunities within the corporation. If an injured service member is no longer able to work, the program offers career support to a member of the individual’s immediate family who will act as the primary wage earner.
To be eligible for the program, candidates must meet the following criteria:
- severely injured during combat operations in the OEF/OIF on or after September 11, 2001
- disability rating of 30 percent or greater from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
For more information, contact Operation IMPACT at 1-800-395-2361 or e-mail email@example.com for more details.
Federal Civil Service
• If your family member with TBI is your spouse or child who is a totally disabled, retired, or separated member of the Armed Forces (has been retired with a disability rating at the time of retirement of 100 percent; or retired/separated from the Armed Forces with a disability rating of 100 percent from the Department of Veterans Affairs), you are eligible for expedited recruitment and selection for Federal civil service positions.
• You will be given priority in Labor Department-funded employment and training programs, as well as preference in federal hiring.
• You can search for a Federal civil service position by contacting a One Stop Career Center (find the nearest one at www.servicelocator.org). Introduce yourself as the spouse of a recently disabled veteran. Ask to speak with a work force specialist. This individual can tell you about job opportunities in your area.
How Can I Balance Work and Caregiving?
- Talk to your supervisor about your caregiving responsibilities so that he or she understands your need for flexibility. Find out what your company’s policies on caregiving are.
- If your firm has an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), you may be able to obtain counseling, legal assistance, and/or referrals to community resources.
- At home, prioritize what needs to be done. Delegate tasks to others. And remember to make time for yourself. You can’t help anyone if you get run-down or sick from too much stress.
- If you are can’t work full-time because of caregiving tasks, look into part-time jobs, flex-time options, and/or job-sharing.
This is a chapter from the Family Caregiver Curriculum, Module 3: Becoming a Family Caregiver for a Service Member/Veteran in TBI.
The Traumatic Brain Injury: A Guide for Caregivers of Service Members and Veterans provides comprehensive information and resources caregivers need to care and advocate for their injured loved one and to care for themselves in the process. The Guide was developed by the Defense Health Board, the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center and the Department of Veterans Affairs.