If you are a military veteran, especially if you were injured in combat, then you may be eligible for certain benefits through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Veterans' benefits typically include health care coverage and rehabilitation, disability compensation, education and vocational training, job placement, retirement pension, special assistance for home loans, even burial and memorial services. FindLaw’s Veterans’ Benefits section walks you through the details of what you are entitled to as a military veteran, with tutorials on how to apply for benefits and how to expedite your claim. Click on one of the links below to learn more.
Military Service Benefits: SCRA and USERRA
There are a number of laws that help protect military service members by providing financial relief and job protection. The Servicemembers' Civil Relief Act (SCRA) and the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Relief Act (USERRA) are two significant examples.
The SCRA extends benefit to active service members, reservists, and active National Guard members. The law also relieves military service members exempt from certain civil obligations while on active duty. It puts a 6 percent cap on qualifying debts and financial obligations, though student loans guaranteed by the federal government are excluded from the cap. The law also permits service members to terminate a residential or commercial lease after signing, terminate the lease of a motor vehicle, prevent an eviction, or stay a court proceeding.
The USERRA prohibits discrimination against employees that leave to serve in the military and require that those who do so be permitted reinstatement if their absence is 5 years or less. There are limited exceptions to this obligation if workplace changes make it impossible to reinstate the employee, to do so would cause an undue hardship on the employer, or the employment prior to the military service was brief and there was no reasonable expectation that the employment would continue for a long time.
How do I Get Military Employment Protection?
Although USERRA prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of one's military service or obligation qualifying for the protection does require some actions on the part of the service member. The first important action they must take is to provide written or verbal notice of the pending military service. There isn't a particular amount of notice required to be given. The law simply states that notice should be given "as far in advance as is reasonable under the circumstances."
USERRA may continue to protect someone who failed to give notice, providing the other eligibility criteria are met. Neither the service member nor the employer have any additional reporting or filing requirements, though employers may ask your commanding officer for proof of the military service requirement, which is typically a copy of the orders or a signed memorandum from the commanding officer.
After discharge from the service the former employee must then reapply for their job or report back to work within an appropriate amount of time. If you are recovering from a service-related illness or injury this may be as long as two years. If you became disabled as a result of your service your employer must make reasonable efforts to accommodate your return. The employer may request evidence of military service lasting 31 days or more, to which the employee should submit documentation showing that application is timely, that you have not exceeded service limitations, and that other USERRRA eligibility criteria have been met.