Building an Economy that Works for Everyone

Washington Veterans Are Getting New Benefits

In 2020, veterans and their families will have special paid leave rights

In honor of Veterans Day, let’s look at how Washington’s paid family and medical leave program will help veterans and their families in 2020, such as people like Army Sergeant Elena Garcia and her husband Sam.

Elena and Sam Garcia

In 2020, Elena Garcia is finally promoted to Army Sergeant. She has worked hard to get here and she and her family are feeling very proud. Elena is stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Pierce County. Her husband, Sam, teaches at a high school in Tacoma. They have two daughters and also together care for Elena’s mother who can no longer live independently.

Elena is suddenly deployed. She only has a few days at home to prepare for her departure. Sam won’t be able to adequately support his mother-in-law on his own, so needs to make new care arrangements for her.

In 2020, Washington’s paid family and medical leave program will be available to workers. Sam and his employer have both contributed to the fund throughout 2019. The program will allow Sam to take up to 12 weeks paid leave to cope with a family member’s military service, so he can:

  • Make new arrangements for childcare or elder care
  • Take leave during Elena’s R&R
  • Spend time with Elena during reintegration
  • Attend military ceremonies
  • Deal with short-notice deployments
  • Take care of Elena if she is injured in combat

Sam notifies his school principle and applies for paid leave benefits from the state. As a senior teacher, his regular earnings qualify him for the maximum weekly benefit of $1,000 from the fund (not his employer). Sam is then able to take the time away from work necessary to find a home care provider who speaks Spanish and with whom his mother-in-law feels comfortable.

When Elena later receives an award for bravery, Sam will be able to fly to Washington, D.C. for the ceremony and take an additional week of paid leave to celebrate with Elena, which they were not able to do with the sudden deployment.

For many of us, Veterans Day is a unique opportunity to thank men and women in service. I’m looking forward to going to the grocery store on Monday, November 11 to visit the elderly gentleman who served during WWII. I will thank him for his service and throw a few bucks in the can, and he will hand me a red poppy made out of tissue paper held together by wire. The red poppy is the symbol of remembrance for this holiday. This will always make me think of people like Elena and her family.


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