The official blog of American Veteran Magazine, the national quarterly publication of AMVETS.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Sen. Bob Casey, Reps. Artur Davis and John Boccieri discuss USERRA overhaul

Earlier this month, Alabama Congressman Artur Davis and Ohio Congressman John Boccieri introduced a new bill that would overhaul the current Uniformed Servicemembers Employment & Re-employment Rights Act called the Servicemembers Access to Justice Act (SAJA, H.R. 1474).

The new law would close critical loopholes for members of the National Guard and Reserve who are unfairly discriminated against by employers. Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey and Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy introduced a companion SAJA bill in the Senate.

On Thursday, Casey, Davis, and Boccieri fielded questions from reporters across the country to explain SAJA and its potential benefits for our citizen-soldiers.

Boccieri worked to pass a similar bill while he served in the Ohio Legislature, which allowed Ohio's reserve forces to hold companies who sought to circumvent USERRA accountable for their actions.

During the call, Boccieri said that under the current law, troops can only take legal action within the federal court system--a process that can take upwards of four years to complete. Unfortunately, most are unwilling to see the process through.

"When faced with pursuing a case or putting food on the table, most people will choose the latter," said Boccieri. "They'll just walk away."

In Ohio, troops who wish to file USERRA complaints now can bring suit in the state court system on an accelerated docket. The new federal bill would present the same oppotunity for citizen-soldiers nationwide.

According to a 2006 Pentagon report, more than 11,000 troops return from combat to find that their civilian job is no longer available. More than 22,000 do not receive the pay or benefits they are entitled to through USERRA. Davis also said that countless others may not be reporting their employment issues.

During the call, Casey said that veterans have the fewest discrimination protections under current laws. He hopes that SAJA will "give USERRA teeth" when businesses shirk their legal and moral obligations.

SAJA has been referred to committee in the House, and AMVETS Legislative Director Ray Kelley is scheduled to testify in support of the Senate bill next week. Check back regularly with American Veteran online for more details, and if you have a USERRA story you would like to share, please comment below.

(Note: Rep. John Boccieri is a Major in the Air Force Reserve and a life member of AMVETS Post 44 in Youngstown, Ohio. To learn more about Boccieri, check out the Spring issue of American Veteran magazine. Photo: Rep. Boccieri sits down with American Veteran magazine in his office on Capitol Hill in February. Photo by Jay Agg.)

1 comment:

  1. Hi, my name is Lorenzo Collins and I am currently a sergeant serving in the U.S. Army. Before my enlistment in October 2007 I was employed with PPG Industries, Inc. in Lake Charles, La. I was employed there since June 1995 and held a salary non-exempt position before being terminated due to my military enlistment. On or about Sept. 1, 2007 I notified my supervisor, Jim Rusnak, of my intentions and he granted me the time off, necessary for my enlistment requirements. I also informed him that the enlistment process will start in approx. 3-4 weeks and that I would take the time off necessary as a leave of absence without pay in conjunction with accrued vacation time. He authorized this time due to military reasons and forwarded it to human resource manager, Vickie Parker. However, when she got involved everything took a turn for the worse. I got the impression from her that she wasn't supportive of my decision about enlisting in the Army and having to replace me temporarily throughout my enlistment obligation of 3 years 21 weeks. So, I started the enlistment process on Sept. 24, 2007 and also sent Mr. Rusnak an e-mail from my recruiter as well informing him of my enlistment requirements and that I had signed a contract for enlistment on October 3, 2007. On or about October 24, 2007 is when I received a termination letter from Vickie Parker for "job abandonement". Vickie Parker and everybody at corporate office supported her decision and are not willing to comply with the protection that I have under USERRA. They have been educated on those laws through attempts from a legal assistance attorney as well as a private attorney who was in favor of my complaint. All they did was deny the fact that my verbal notice was given and that conversations between me and Jim Rusnak never took place. I am almost at the end of my contract which ends April 15, 2011 and would like some assistance or advice in helping me get my job back after serving my country for the past 3+ years. I can be reached at my ( or my cell phone # is 580-284-2894. Thanks for any information or advice that you may have to offer.