By Sam Hananel
The Obama administration proposed new rules Monday to help military families care for service members when they are injured or called to active duty on short notice.
The proposal expands eligibility under the Family and Medical Leave Act, which allows employees to take unpaid leave for certain medical or family emergencies.
First lady Michelle Obama joined Labor Secretary Hilda Solis to announce the plan, which would let caregivers take leave to help family members up to five years after they leave the military. Current law does not cover service members who have left the armed forces.
"We want to recognize the extraordinary dedication, sacrifice and service of our nation's caregivers, not simply with words but with deeds," Obama said during a Labor Department ceremony attended by dozens of military members and their families.
The rules also would expand leave to cover families of those in the regular armed forces, not just families of National Guard members and reservists.
The proposal would allow spouses, children or parents take up to 12 weeks of leave from work to help a service member deployed on short notice. Family caregivers could attend military functions, deal with child care issues, or make financial and legal arrangements without fear of losing their jobs.
"Many service members come home stressed, ill and injured," Solis said. "They need attention, care and support from the people that love them most."
Family members also would get up to 26 weeks of leave to care for recent veterans who were injured or became ill in the line of duty. That includes conditions that don't arise until after a veteran has left military service.
The plan expands from five days to 15 days the amount of time an employee can take off work to spend with a service member who is on leave to rest or recuperate.
Labor officials will consider comments for the next 60 days before considering whether to make the proposed rules final.
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