|Date||May 19, 2009 (111th Congress, 1st Session)|
|Staff Contact||Andy Koenig|
H.R. 1089 is being considered on the floor under a suspension of the rules, requiring a two-thirds majority vote for passage on Tuesday, May 19, 2009. This legislation was introduced by Rep. Herseth-Sandlin (D-SD) on February 13, 2009. The bill was referred to the Committee on Veterans' Affairs, which held a mark up and reported the bill by voice vote on May 14, 2009.
H.R. 1089 would transfer additional responsibility for investigation and enforcement of discrimination claims under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) to the Office of Special Counsel (OSC). Specifically, the bill would give OSC the jurisdiction and authority to prosecute all USERRA complaints and cases involving federal agencies. The bill would also stipulate that the OSC has the same authority as the Department of Labor to subpoena witnesses and evidence when investigating USERRA cases.
USERRA ensures certain employment protections to individuals who have served in the Armed Services. The purpose of USERRA is to ensure that service members are: 1) not disadvantaged in their civilian careers because of their service, 2) promptly reemployed in their civilian jobs upon their return from duty, and 3) are not discriminated against in employment based on past, present, or future military service. If a veteran feels that their civilian job has been unlawfully affected by their military services, they may submit a claim to the Department of Labor's Veterans' Employment Training Service (VETS). If VETS is unable to resolve a dispute, the agency appeals to the Office of Special Counsel (OSC).
The OSC is an independent federal investigative and prosecutorial agency with the mission of protecting federal and private employees from restricted personnel practices. In 2004, Congress passed the Veterans Benefits Improvement Act, which included a pilot program that gave OSC the authority to investigate federal-sector USERRA claims for certain veterans. According to House Report 111-111, OSC "has done a good job handling claims and has increased the DOL's effectiveness by decreasing their turnaround rate for pending cases." In addition, the House Report states that numerous veterans' service organizations have indicated their desire to see OSC take over all USERRA federal-employment complaints.
According to CBO, H.R. 1089 would cost $14 million over the Fiscal Year 2010-2014 period to pay for the increased cost to OSC of handling 200 to 300 additional claims annually.