ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. – Upon completion of my five-level seasonal training, I submitted my application for reemployment to my employer, asking to return to my pre-service position. I received a warm welcome and everyone in the shop expressed appreciation for my service to country.
During my reintegration back into the company, an official from the Human Resources department stated that I would have to wait until the next open season to start health insurance coverage.
Thanks to the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve briefing I received, I recalled benefits were supposed to start immediately upon my return to civilian employment.
Before addressing this with the HR department, I wanted to ensure my recollection of the briefing was accurate, so I arranged a meeting with my noncommissioned officer during the Unit Training Assembly to discuss the issue – as thought, I was indeed correct. After the discussion, my NCO recommended that I contact the ESGR office and file a complaint to have the situation mediated.
The ESGR Ombudsman worked with my HR department to resolve my issue in a timely manner, which resulted in the immediate reinstatement of my benefits. Later, I inquired with the HR department on what happened and they admitted that the HR clerk had not received the proper training to handle my unique situation.
Specifically, the HR person handling my file was not aware of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act for military affiliated employees. I had been mistaken as a straight civilian returning from a leave of absence and company policy was that you had to wait until open season to restart benefits.
The majority of the HR departments want to do the right thing for their employees, but may not be trained on all of the different regulations from the federal, state and local governments. Currently there are 180 federal regulations the U.S. Department of Labor administers and enforces and companies with small HR departments struggle to keep up with the different, always changing regulations.
Informing civilian employers on Reserve and Guard working-rights, is where ESGR can help servicemembers best. They are more proactive toward potential issues and work with civilian employers before the problems arise.
It would be beneficial to have an ESGR representative speak with your employer to explain their advocacy role, relating to all matters that pertain to the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act.Their mission is to facilitate and promote a cooperative culture of employer support for National Guard and Reserve service by developing and advocating mutually beneficial initiatives.
With your help, the transition from the military back to civilian life can be made a little easier through open dialogue with servicemembers, employers and ESGR to advocate for both.