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Some women in Armed Forces miss out on maternity leave. Kansas lawmaker's bill would end that

Bryan Lowry, McClatchy Washington Bureau on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- The same week in December that Briell Zweygardt is due to give birth to her first child she's also scheduled to report to McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita, Kan., for drills.

Zweygardt, 25, is a second lieutenant in the Kansas Air National Guard and like other women in the National Guard or military reserves she'll face a tough choice when her child is born. If she takes time off from her monthly guard duties to care for her child, she'll lose out on pay and points toward her retirement.

"I have actually seen women bring their newborns to drill because they didn't want to miss," said Zweygardt, who lives in Wamego.

In 2016, the U.S. Department of Defense enacted a 12-week maternity leave policy to cover active duty personnel, but the policy did not cover women in the National Guard or military reserves. They can still be penalized for taking time off to care for their newborn children.

Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., has introduced legislation that will close this loophole and guarantee 12 weeks of paid maternity leave for guardswomen and reservists.

Roughly 150,000 women nationally serve in either the guard or reserves, according to Moran. That includes 661 women in the Kansas Army National Guard.

 

The Mothers of Military Service Leave Act -- or MOMS Leave Act -- would ensure that these servicewomen don't lose out on credits toward their retirement for taking maternity leave.

"Women who serve our country should not be inadvertently penalized for having a child, nor should they be expected to return to drill duties in the weeks following childbirth," Moran said last month when he announced the bill.

In an interview, Moran said the issue was first brought to his attention by an Army fellow working in his office.

"I can't figure out any reason that distinction makes any sense. If it's the right thing to do for active duty military, it's the right thing to do for the guard and reserves," Moran said in a phone call Tuesday. "In an all volunteer military, it matters what the benefits are."

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