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February 17, 2006
Group Says Employers Must Prepare for Return of Injured Vets

The Insurance Information Institute says employers and their insurers must prepare for the tens of thousands of injured veterans returning from conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In Iraq , more than 16,000 military personnel have been wounded in action, according to the Defense Department.

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Robert Hartwig, chief economist of the institute, says that reintegration of the injured soldiers will likely present unexpected challenges to employers.

Employers should be prepared for both physical injuries and mental-health issues, he said.

The institute says workplace injuries that are primarily the result of injuries originally sustained during military service will generally be covered by the employer's workers compensation program or, in some states, a second injury fund.

Veterans are also entitled to lifetime medical benefits from the Veterans Administration for service-related injuries, the institute notes. The Veterans Administration also operates a Readjustment and Counseling Service to ease the transition of veterans returning to civilian life.

The institute reminds employers that they must ensure compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Employers must also ensure compliance with the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

For example, the Department of Labor (DOL) has said that active duty time counts toward eligibility to take time off from work under FMLA. The DOL said employers must count the months and hours that U.S. reservists or National Guard members would have worked if they had not been called to military duty toward the 1,250 hour requirement for FMLA eligibility.

More information on the ADA, USERRA, and FMLA.

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