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Joining Forces for Caregivers an Event with the First Lady

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

Good morning. Buenos dias!

Thank you for that warm welcome.

And to all of our guests here today: Bienvenidos! Welcome to the Department of Labor!

We have the privilege of welcoming two very special guests to the department today. We're so honored to have the First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama with us this morning.

She'll be with us in just a few moments. But this isn't her first time at the Department of Labor. We were so proud to have the First Lady visit a year and a half ago. Needless to say, we're thrilled to have her back.

You know in Spanish, we call women like the First Lady "luchadoras" -- strong women who fight on and let nothing stand in their way. So I want to thank her for fighting on for working families -- for women -- for our young people -- and for providing inspiration to my work as Secretary of Labor.

We're here today to talk about another group of people that the First Lady has worked so hard to support. I'm talking about our military families.

Through initiatives like "Joining Forces" she and Dr. Jill Biden have made supporting military families a national priority. On everything from training veterans and their spouses, putting them in good jobs, supporting the education of their children, and expanding their access to wellness programs, they're making sure that service members and their families get the opportunities and support they have rightfully earned.

I'm proud that we're able to join in this effort at the Department of Labor.

Every day, service members make incredible sacrifices for all of us. Their families do, too. On top of having a loved one deployed abroad, bills still need to be paid -- parent-teacher meetings need to be attended -- and food still has to be put on the table.

Many service members come home stressed, ill or injured. They need attention, care and support from the people that love them the most. And we've got an obligation to help them make that possible.

On the battlefield, our soldiers pledge to leave no one behind. Today, we make a similar pledge to our soldiers and to their families: We will not leave you behind. As President Obama said in his speech Tuesday night, "we've got your back."

Today, the Department of Labor is announcing a proposal to expand military family leave protections. The Family and Medical Leave Act, otherwise known as the FMLA, requires employers to provide employees job-protected unpaid leave for qualified medical and family reasons.

Today's proposed expansions of the FMLA will help military families and caregivers tend to wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans without the fear of losing their job while doing so.

Specifically, this proposal will:

Allow an employee to take leave before, during or after their spouse, child or parent's deployment abroad to tend to matters related to their family's service to our nation, such as attending military briefings, and making financial and legal arrangements.

Our proposal also extends a twenty-six workweek leave entitlement to employees caring for family members who are recent veterans with a serious injury or illness incurred in the line of duty. This includes conditions that do not arise until after the veteran has left military service.

Finally, we are proposing to expand the amount of time an employee may take to spend with their loved one while he or she is on rest and recuperation leave -- from 5 days up to 15 days.

On Tuesday, President Obama said that the defining issue of our time is how to keep the basic promise of America alive.

For our women and men in uniform, for their spouses and for their children, keeping that promise means giving them the resources, support and opportunities they need and deserve.

I'm proud of the actions we're taking on behalf of military families today. And I'm so grateful to have the First Lady on our side.

I'd now like to introduce our other special guest today.

Ryanne (RYE-ANN) Noss is the devoted wife and caregiver of Sergeant First Class, Scot Noss, who was injured in Afghanistan in February 2007 during his eighth tour of duty as an Army Ranger.

She joins us today to share her story and shed a personal light on this issue for military families.

Ladies and gentleman please help me in welcoming, Mrs. Ryanne Noss.

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