Today, two key pieces of legislation sponsored by Congressman Adam Smith moved closer to the Presidents desk for signature. The pair of bills, The Veterans to Work Pilot Program Act and Military Family Leave Act, will support military families when their loved ones are deployed and will spur job opportunities for veterans when they return from their overseas duties.

 “The men and women of our armed forces and their families make tremendous sacrifices to serve our nation and keep us safe. It is our obligation to ensure they are provided the support that they deserve,” said Congressman Adam Smith.  “Together, these bills will help address significant problems plaguing our military community – high unemployment in our veterans population and the strain placed on families when their loved ones are deployed.”

 The Veterans to Work Pilot Program Act of 2009, which Smith introduced in November of 2009 has been incorporated into the National Defense Authorization Act of 2011. The legislation passed the House of Representatives today and now must pass the Senate before it can be signed into law. The legislation expands job opportunities by creating a 5-year pilot program to enroll military veterans in apprenticeship programs and employ them on military construction projects.

The legislation would specifically require the Secretary of Defense to designate at least twenty military construction projects per year where, to the maximum extent feasible, the utilization of veteran apprenticeship labor would be required. At the end of each year, and at the conclusion of the pilot program, the Secretary would be required to submit a report to Congress that, among other things, evaluates the benefits of employing apprentices who are veterans on Military Construction projects.

The Military Family Leave Act of 2009, which was introduced by Smith in July of last year, was also incorporated into the National Defense Authorization Act of 2011 by amendment. The bill would provide two weeks of unpaid leave to the spouse, children, or parents of a member of the military who receives notification of deployment or is currently deployed.

 While the Fiscal Year 2008 National Defense Authorization Act added a provision to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allowing military families to take time off for a number of reasons connected with a deployment, not all employees were made eligible under that earlier law. The Military Family Leave Act of 2009 seeks to ensure that all military families have the ability to take two-weeks of unpaid leave in response to an upcoming or current deployment of spouse, parent, or child.