By Sen. Mike Crapo
War is a time of sacrifice, certainly by the soldiers who are fighting the battles and their families left behind, and the rest of the nation as well. Many men and women who are currently deployed are members of our National Guard and Reserve. These individuals have left not only family, but jobs. Consequently, many businesses across the nation and in Idaho have temporarily lost part of their workforce. In Idaho, this loss is perhaps more keenly felt due to the high percentage of small businesses that make up our states business community. Despite the resulting economic hardship faced by these individuals, companies, and organizations, Idaho businesses are supporting their deployed employees.
Hundreds of National Guard and Reserve Idahoans have been called to active duty since early 2003, and people have concerns and questions related to periods of deployment and its effect on service members, their families, and businesses.
Throughout our history, the government has ensured that those who defend our country are protected from many of the negative financial and career impacts a tour of duty might otherwise cause. During the Civil War, Congress placed a moratorium on legal action involving soldiers for the duration of their military service. This was done both to acknowledge that a soldiers pay might be insufficient to cover pre-war debt and to reduce the strain felt by men separated from their families and enduring the hardship of war.
In 1918, and again in 1940, Congress passed similar legislation. Unlike past provisions, the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act of 1940 does not have an expiration date. However, it has been amended numerous times over the past 64 years, the most recent being December 2003. It is now called the Service members Civil Relief Act, and includes important protections for military members and their families. The act
Furthermore, Congress passed the Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act of 1994 to safeguard National Guard and Armed Forces Reserve personnel from losing their civilian job or any employment benefit while serving on active duty for a period of time up to five years.
Employers must allow their deployed employees and dependents to remain covered under group health plans for up to 18 months. Also, employers cannot charge deployed employees vacation time for military service. Employers must make contributions to the pension plans of these employees, and deployed employees do not have to re-qualify for participation in such plans.
Our country has a proud tradition of supporting those who defend our freedom. Please remember to thank the members of our armed forces and their families for their tremendous sacrifice. And thank the businesses you know of that are impacted by the war.