On October 21, 2011, President Barack Obama announced the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, effectively ending the Iraq war. As a result, nearly 40,000 soldiers are returning home, back to their family, friends, and jobs. This resurgence of veterans into American society merits an exploration of the statute that exists to protect their employment rights: the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act ("USERRA").
USERRA protects individuals in the armed forces who voluntarily or involuntarily leave their employment to serve in the military or who accept certain positions in the National Disaster Medical System. USERRA provides that qualified individuals must be restored to the job and benefits level they would have achieved had they not left their employment for military service (the so-called "escalator" principle), or if this is not possible, the service member must be provided with a comparable job opportunity. The law also provides that qualified individuals have the right to continue their employer's health benefits plan for themselves and their dependents for up to twenty-four (24) months while serving in the military. Additionally, USERRA prohibits discrimination based on past or present military service status in decisions regarding: (1) hiring; (2) reemployment; (3) retention in employment; (4) promotion; or (5) any employment benefit.
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