Database issues hurt National Guard and Reserve

New report criticizes the Defense Department for not enforcing a law that requires service members to inform DOD about their civilian employers.

GAO report on Military Personnel: Federal Management of Servicemember Employment Rights

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Incompatible database systems and a lack of agency coordination are eroding the job protections that lawmakers intended for millions of National Guard and Reserve members when Congress passed the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) of 1994.

The law, intended to minimize damage to service members’ civilian careers when they are called for military duty, is not meeting its ambitions, according to a Government Accountability Office report. That report, released Oct. 20, is critical of the Defense Department for not enforcing the law’s requirement that service members enter their civilian employer information into DOD’s USERRA database.

Between Sept. 11, 2001, and June 30, 2005, more than 9,500 Individual Ready Reserve members were recalled to active duty, the report states. Despite those activations, only 10 percent from the Army Reserve and 16 percent from the Marine Corps Reserve entered their employer information in the DOD database.

GAO recommended that the DOD secretary share information from the department’s civilian employer database with other federal agencies that inform employers about employees’ protections under USERRA.

GAO also asked the secretary’s office to work with the Labor Department, the Attorney General’s Office and the Office of Special Counsel to develop systems or procedures for electronically transferring USERRA complaint case files among those agencies and reduce their reliance on paper files.

GAO found that each agency involved in USERRA compliance has its own database system for tracking job discrimination complaints filed under the law. However, none of them allow automated data transfers between systems, and the lack of electronic data sharing causes unnecessary delays in resolving service members’ employment rights complaints, GAO’s auditors concluded.

“GAO analysis of 52 complaints that had been closed and reopened two or more times found that recorded processing times averaged 103 days but the actual elapsed times that service members waited to have their complaints fully addressed averaged 619 days,” the report states.

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