WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) yesterday introduced a bill to allow servicemembers time to grieve the death of their newborn babies. The Elaine M. Checketts Military Families Act – named after the deceased daughter of Major Matthew Checketts, an Active Duty Airman based at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland – amends current leave policy for servicemembers so their pre-approved parental leave is not terminated in the tragic event of a child’s death.
“We ask our military to do so much for this nation, but returning to work the day after their child passes should have never been on that list,” said Sen. Cornyn. “I’m thankful Major Checketts reached out to my office about how this policy so profoundly impacted his family during a time of immense tragedy. With this bill, I hope to ensure any family grieving the death of a newborn has the time to grieve together.”
“No servicemember should be forced to go back to work the day after the death of their child but that’s exactly what current DoD policy is allowing to happen,” Sen. Duckworth said. “I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation with Senator Cornyn to end this policy and make sure any military family experiencing such an awful tragedy is given the time they need and deserve to mourn.”
Current Dept. of Defense policy dictates that a servicemember’s pre-approved parental leave ends upon the death of the child, requiring a servicemember to leave their family and immediately return to work. The Elaine M. Checketts Military Family Act would amend this policy to allow servicemembers to take the rest of their pre-approved parental leave to grieve with their family. The bill would bring parity for members of the military with other civilian federal employees, who already have the option to finish pre-approved parental leave following the death of a child.