Archive for Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Unconscionable

We must meet our commitments to those who went into harm’s way on our behalf.

November 19, 2003

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It's absolutely unacceptable, and actions need to be taken immediately to change this disconcerting scenario.

The subject is the shabby treatment of veterans returning from military duty.

Kirstin Downey of the Washington Post reports that about 1,300 National Guardsmen and reservists filed complaints with the Department of Labor in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30. They say they have suffered discrimination at work when they returned to their regular jobs after tours of duty. That total is up from 900 complaints in 2001.

Concerned about the rise in complaints, Labor Secretary Elaine Chao has released a televised public service announcement reminding employers that they must reinstate workers called to military duty.

"They did their job -- now let's do ours," Chao says in the advertisement. Now there is need for quick backup.

Under a 1994 law, it is illegal to discriminate against people mobilized for duty. People returning from military service are supposed to be allowed to return to their same, or a comparable, job, complete with any pay raises or promotions they would otherwise have received if they had remained at work.

The United States has become increasingly reliant on National Guard and Reserve forces. They now make up about half the forces in Iraq. Since Sept. 11, 2001, 306,000 reservists and guardsmen have been mobilized, including about 163,000 now on active duty.

Generally, employers have done what they are supposed to do. Others have clearly failed and should be brought up short and made to make recompense.

Then there is the matter of bringing wounded service people back from foreign assignments and giving them poor medical care and miserable accommodations. The employment issue is vital and so is the quality of health care for people who went onto the front lines on our behalf.

The phrase "How quickly they forget" keeps echoing here. Commitments were made to people we sent into harm's way, and we need to meet them.

If employers are lagging or reluctant to measure up, they should be jolted into line immediately.

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