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Hidden Heroes: Employment Law Protections for Military Caregivers


After decades of conflict overseas, military service members are returning home as survivors of tragic injuries from war due to incredible advances in battlefield medicine and combat casualty care. Meanwhile, veterans from past wars and conflicts are also experiencing service-related health issues along with the natural effects of aging. Regardless of whether they served in the Vietnam War or the Iraq War, many veterans increasingly need long-term medical care and support. Oftentimes, family members nobly and selflessly take on these caregiving responsibilities. There are millions of these “hidden heroes” across the country, including the spouses, parents, and other family members who care for the nation’s wounded, ill, or injured veterans. One of the foremost challenges that these family members face is balancing caregiving responsibilities at home with professional work outside the home. Likewise, employers face challenges when accommodating employees who are family military caregivers.

This Article examines the critical employment law protections for family military caregivers. First, this Article explores the modern challenges that these caregivers face and the associated public policy concerns, including military recruitment and retention concerns. Next, this Article examines the specific employment law protections available for military family caregivers. The Article then shifts to examine best practices for employers so they can recruit and retain military caregiver employees. Finally, this Article argues that current protections are woefully inadequate and outlines and advances several solutions to help ameliorate the status quo, including legislative and regulatory measures.