From: The Honorable Tammy Duckworth
Bill: H.R. 4796
Cosponsor the Military Parental Leave Modernization Act (H.R. 4796)
Modernize Military Parental Leave to Strengthen Armed Forces’ Ability to Recruit and Retain Talented Americans
I invite you to cosponsor the Military Parental Leave Modernization Act (H.R. 4796). The National Women’s Law Center and the National Partnership for Women & Families endorsed this legislation that would modernize military parental leave policies.
This pro-military family legislation seeks to strengthen the U.S. Department of Defense’s ability to compete with the private sector for top talent and empower Servicemembers to fulfill what the Secretary of Defense recently described as, “…two of the most
solemn commitments they can ever make: a commitment to serve their country and a commitment to start and support a family.”
Below you will find a letter of support for H.R. 4796 by Debra L. Ness, President of the National Partnership for Women & Families.
If you have any questions about the Military Parental Leave Modernization Act (H.R. 4796), or wish to cosponsor H.R. 4796, please contact Benjamin Rhodeside with Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth (IL-08) at Benjamin.Rhodeside@mail.house.gov.
Dear Representative Duckworth:
The National Partnership for Women & Families strongly supports the Military Parental Leave Modernization Act (H.R. 4796), which would guarantee that all military parents receive at least 12 weeks of paid parental leave to bond with and care for a new
child. Offering an equal duration of leave to all military servicemembers who become parents would ensure that members of the military do not have to choose between serving their country and caring for a new child, enabling the Armed Forces to recruit and
retain America’s finest.
The Military Parental Leave Modernization Act would update military maternity and paternity leave policies to reflect principles of gender equality and the diversity of modern family caregiving relationships. The Military Parental Leave Modernization
Act would consolidate the military’s separate paternity, maternity and adoption policies into a uniform policy that offers at least 12 weeks of paid parental leave to all military personnel, regardless of gender, marital status or sexual orientation. A uniform
policy would reduce inequality, ease policy implementation and serve as a recruitment tool.
The Military Parental Leave Modernization Act is necessary because, although the Department of Defense (DoD) has made great strides to reflect the needs of modern servicemembers, the DoD’s current paid leave policy is inequitable and reinforces gender
stereotypes about parenting and caregiving. Under current law, female servicemembers are entitled to 12 weeks of paid maternity leave upon the birth of a new child, whereas male servicemembers are permitted only 10 days – and then only if married to the child’s
mother and on active duty. Servicemembers adopting a child are only allowed a maximum of three weeks of paid leave. Current law also excludes certain servicemembers. For example, male servicemembers who are not married to their child’s mother, husbands not
on active duty, and parents of foster children are ineligible for any parental leave at all. These inequitable and unfair policies fail to recognize the caregiving roles of same-sex parents, unmarried partners, personnel who adopt, single parents and fathers
Paid parental leave is good for newborn and child health. Forty-two percent of all military personnel have dependent children, and just under four in ten of those children (37.4 percent) are between zero and five years old.
Time at home with newborns, infants and toddlers gives parents the time they need to breastfeed, attend well-child medical visits, and ensure that their children receive all necessary immunizations. Studies
show that paid family leave yields higher rates and longer periods of breastfeeding, which reduces rates of childhood infections.
Time with fathers is important to the well-being of families and children. Servicemen deserve to be able to bond with and care for their newborns. A study of four OECD countries, including the United States, found a positive association between time
fathers spent caring for young children and higher cognitive test scores for those children. Involved fathers also promote children’s educational attainment and emotional stability.
And a father’s involvement in his newborn’s care in the first six months can mean both mother and baby sleep better.
The Armed Forces can help ease the stress of deployment and separation and prevent new parents from withdrawing from the service by offering 12 weeks of paid parental leave. Managing duty to one’s country and duty to one’s family can be difficult for
many military families. Premature separation – leaving military service before one plans, expects or wants to – is common among female veterans, often due to caregiving responsibilities. In the private
sector, turnover can cost an employer as much as one-fifth of an employee’s annual salary. In the military, turnover costs are even higher because it can take up to seven years to train a new servicemember.
The military needs qualified, highly trained members to stay in service so that the military can benefit from their experience and offset the high costs of training and recruitment.
Women and men who choose to serve in the Armed Forces make sacrifices every day to protect and defend this nation. All military parents deserve to have adequate time to bond with and care for their children. Passing the Military Parental Leave Modernization
Act would enable all servicemembers to fulfill what Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter describes as, “…two of the most solemn commitments they can ever make: a commitment to serve their country and a commitment to start and support a family.”
We thank the Congresswoman for introducing the Military Parental Leave Modernization Act and encourage Congress to move quickly to pass this common-sense legislation.
Debra L. Ness
National Partnership for Women & Families