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Two weeks off for spouses before deployment?

While the “don’t ask, don’t tell” debate grabbed nearly all the headlines from the House and Senate defense authorization bills last week, the legislation also includes a number of smaller tweaks to military and federal policy which could end up having a much greater impact on troops’ lives.

Among them is a provision offered by Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., which would provide a guaranteed two weeks leave for spouses, parents or children of deploying troops, to make sure they have time to say their goodbyes before the servicemembers depart for up to a year.

Under the Family and Medical Leave Act military families can take some time for such farewells. But to qualify they must have worked for the same employer for more than a year, and the company must have at least 50 employees. That works against many military spouses, who frequently move and often find jobs with small businesses in their new neighborhoods.

Smith said the new language would ensure that all military families have the ability to take unpaid leave, allowing both the departing troops and the family left behind more peace of mind.

The provision has been lingering in the House for more than a year, but its inclusion in the authorization bill could make it a reality as early as this fall. However, the Senate still must agree to the idea before it can be signed into law.

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