News Releases

Murray to VA Secretary: Don't Penalize Veterans

Feb 09 2004

Senator calls proposed reduction of overtime benefits "a breach of faith"

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Patty Murray today called on Veterans Affairs Secretary Anthony Principi to oppose new Department of Labor (DOL) regulations which would eliminate overtime compensation for some veterans. The new regulations would add military training to the types of job training that would make a worker a "professional," and thus exempt from overtime benefits.



A member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, and the daughter of a decorated World War II veteran, Murray called the DOL proposal a "breach of faith for veterans."



"I strongly believe these men and women have sacrificed enough – they should not be forced to suffer a pay cut because they sought a better way of life for themselves and their families while courageously serving their country," Murray said in her letter to Sec. Principi.



Under current Labor regulations, workers can be denied overtime protections if they fall under the category of "professional employees" – a classification only bestowed on those with specialized degrees. DOL's proposal would allow military training to qualify as a specialized degree. The Bush Administration proposed the new rules last year, but held up final implementation after a majority of Congress voted to oppose finalization.



The proposal could cost some veterans up to 25 percent of their pay as well as significant time with their families if they are forced to work longer hours or second jobs just to make ends meet.



"Mr. Secretary, as our nation's leading advocate for veterans, it is imperative for you to express your opposition to the Department of Labor's proposed overtime rule," Murray said.



Senator Murray's letter follows:



February 9, 2004



Secretary Anthony Principi
Department of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20420




Dear Mr. Secretary:



As all of us know, the men and women in our Armed Forces are currently performing heroically on a number of dangerous fronts around the world.



As a Member of the Veterans Affairs Committee, I am proud to say we have the finest and best trained military in the world. Unfortunately, a proposed rule issued by the Department of Labor (DOL) threatens to eliminate overtime compensation for some veterans. The proposed DOL rule will undermine the very reasons many of our young people enlist in the military – an opportunity to acquire skills and training for a good paying career once their military obligation has been completed.



My specific concern centers on the section of the proposed overtime rule which will allow employers to equate training received in the military as equivalent to a university degree. Under current regulations, workers can be denied overtime protections if they fall within the category of "professional employees," but generally only workers with a specialized degree can be classified as "professional."



DOL's proposed rule will do away with this standard requirement and allow equivalent "training in the armed forces" to be routinely substituted for a specialized degree. In other words, veterans working in a professional field could now be classified as "professional employees" and lose their overtime protections.



Mr. Secretary, as our nation's leading advocate for veterans, it is imperative for you to express your opposition to the Department of Labor proposed overtime rule to both the President and the Secretary of Labor. As you may know, a majority of the Congress has already voted to oppose the DOL rule from being finalized.



DOL's proposal is a breach of faith for veterans that could cost them up to 25% of their pay and significant time with their families if they are forced to work longer hours or second jobs to pay for their day to day essentials.







I strongly believe these men and women have sacrificed enough – they should not be forced to suffer a pay cut because they sought a better way of life for themselves and their families while courageously serving their country.



I look forward to your swift response to this critical question of basic fairness for our veterans.





Sincerely,



Patty Murray
United States Senate