A bill by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) to help wounded veterans transition from military service to the state workforce has been signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown.

Senate Bill 221, the California Wounded Warriors Transitional Leave Act, will give new state employees who are disabled veterans up to 96 hours of sick leave during their first year in the state workforce to attend medical and VA appointments during work hours without having to take unpaid leave.

“I’m very pleased that the Governor has signed this bill into law. Many of our veterans are returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with disabilities and health issues that need medical attention,” said Jackson.

“I believe these veterans should be able to access the care they need without hesitation, and without jeopardizing their livelihoods or having to miss these important appointments. It’s the least we owe them,” she said. “This bill is an important way to show our continued commitment to these brave men and women who have served our country, while also ensuring we have a healthy and productive state workforce.”
The bill had the support of numerous veterans organizations, including the California chapters of the American Legion, AMVETS, Military Officers Association of America, the VFW, and the Vietnam Veterans of America.

“SB 221 will allow state-employed veterans to seek treatment for their service-related disability without having to worry about using up their regular sick leave allotment when they first start to work for the state,” said Pete Conaty, a veteran and advocate for these organizations.  

The bill, which takes effect Jan. 1, 2016, would apply to state employees hired on or after Jan. 1, 2016, and who are 30 percent or more disabled as determined by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

These veterans could use the one-time allocation of sick leave for up to year, at which point they will have accrued sufficient sick leave on their own.

Last year, Jackson was named the Leo P. Burke Legislator of the Year by the American Legion, Department of California, for her work authoring a bill to ensure that eligible veterans going through the justice system are steered to Veterans Treatment Courts. 

Jackson also authored Senate Concurrent Resolution 27, which designated portions of Highway 101 in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties for inclusion in the National Purple Heart Trail.

California is home to approximately 2.5 million veterans, and each year, an estimated 30,000 new veterans return to the state.

Jackson represents the 19th Senate District, which includes all of Santa Barbara County and western Ventura County.

— Lisa Gardiner is the communications director for the office of Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson.