Thousands of military women in reserves fight for paid maternity leave.
The Mothers of Military Service (MOMS) Leave Act is being considered by Congress as a possible amendment to the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act. If passed, it would give moms across all reserve components of the military, including the National Guard, pay and points for 12 pay periods following pregnancy and childbirth.
Halston Johnson, 28, a five-year-veteran of the U.S. Army Reserves, said she has seen women in her unit come back too quickly after giving birth just because they cannot afford to lose pay.
Under the current system, women in the military's reserve components can take time off after giving birth but they are not paid and do not receive valuable points that count toward retirement for their missed drills and training weeks. In the Army National Guard, women are also not allowed to go trainings during their pregnancy and for six months after, according to Fajardo Arteaga, who lives her husband and three children in Kansas City, Missouri.
"If I don’t go to the training I can’t get promoted and it ends up being about 16 months that you can't go to trainings," she said. "I missed out on a $20,000 bonus because I wasn’t promoted. "It’s inequality. It’s discrimination," Fajardo Arteaga said. "This is 2019, come on."
Halston Johnson, 28, a five-year-veteran of the U.S. Army Reserves, said she has seen women in her unit come back too quickly after giving birth just because they cannot afford to lose pay. In Johnson's case, she and her husband skimped and saved so she could take four months off after the birth of their son, Warren, nearly two years ago.
When she did return, Johnson recalled facing physical pressures as well, from pumping breast milk while out in the field to getting back in physical shape.
"I took a risk and told myself the health of my child is trumping the requirements," Johnson added. "I may get in trouble with the test but I’m going to take care of my child."
Active-duty servicewomen were granted up to 12 weeks of paid maternity leave through the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act. Each military branch then has its own "service-specific guidance" consistent with the Department of Defense (DOD) policy.
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