ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE SAYS HIS AGENCY NEEDS TO BETTER PROTECT THE JOBS OF RETURNING RESERVISTS AND GUARDSMAN AND BROADCASTS HIS PHONE NUMBER ON "60 MINUTES" TO TAKE COMPLAINTS ? SUNDAY ON CBS
Report Also Examines the Costs Born by Employers of Deployed Citizen Soldiers
Lesley Stahl could only talk to some of the thousands of reservists and guardsmen who have returned from active duty to find problems with their employers over their jobs. The rest can call the assistant secretary of defense directly to complain after he broadcasts his phone number during her 60 MINUTES report Sunday, Nov. 2 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
"Do we need to do better? Yes," says Assistant Secretary of Defense Thomas Hall when pressed by Stahl that even a government agency like the Veterans Administration wrongfully terminated a returning reservist. Thomas vowed on air to help enforce the law that guarantees returning citizen soldiers a job at the same pay. "If there is any guardsman or reservist or family member that has a problem...call me personally....My office will react," he promises, offering his direct telephone line.
Among those who could be calling is Bill Middleton. The army reservist who was once the police chief of Sherwood, Ore., went on active duty twice over six-years. He returned to his same title and salary after his second deployment, but now reports to a "director of public safety," who he says is doing his old job. Middleton is suing. "Sherwood was very supportive of the war....It's very easy to say 'I support the troops,' but it's very hard to be without one of those troops for a long period of time," he tells Stahl. "There's a lot of guys over there sacrificing...and they really need to feel...they have their job when they come back."
Hall may also hear from someone who is not a citizen soldier, but one who employs several of them. Trucking company executive Dave Miller complains his company is bearing an extra financial burden by adhering to the law. Workers' deployment, coming sometimes with just three weeks notice, costs recruitment, training and sometime relocation fees for their replacements. "The private employers cannot...support the full cost of defending this nation," says Miller. There is currently no tax incentive or subsidy to help defray these costs for private employers and Miller has petitioned Congress to offer relief. "If the military is going to take our people 30 percent of the time, let them pay 30 percent of the healthcare costs," he tells Stahl.
The burden on private companies is causing them to discriminate against reservists and guardsmen, says Ted Daywalt, president of Vet Jobs.com. Such discrimination would be illegal and it is hard to prove, but "You can prove it to a point," says Daywalt. "There are surveys done that show that upwards of 70 percent of the employers won't hire a person who's active in the Guard and Reserve," he tells Stahl.