WASHINGTON, D.C. –Senator Lisa Murkowski today welcomed the settlement in the pension case of Alaska Guardsman Robert Traut. Traut was granted full back pay and restored benefits after being denied reemployment by the Department of Health and Human Services in June 2000 after returning from a tour of active duty in the Alaska Air National Guard.

Traut, who worked in Anchorage before going on active duty with the Guard, was reemployed by the federal government as a supply technician at Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak in January 2006 some five and one half years after asserting his reemployment rights under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). Despite his reemployment, Traut was still denied pay and benefits for the period during which he was unemployed. It took more than two additional years to reach a final negotiated settlement with the assistance of the Office of Special Counsel, an independent federal agency which was brought in to represent Traut at Murkowski’s insistence. All in all it took more than 90 months for Traut to receive the relief he was guaranteed by law.

“We must ensure that our returning National Guard and Reserve members are able to quickly recover their jobs and benefits,” said Senator Murkowski. “This case has shown that there are real problems with how guardsmen are treated when returning to civilian life after serving their country on active duty. It adds insult to injury that the federal government is the bad actor. First, the federal government wrongfully denied reemployment and then the federal government forced him to suffer unacceptable delays in the processing and resolution of his claim. No guard member should have to wait 90 days, much less 90 months, to gain the benefits they are guaranteed by law.”

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel’s press release on Robert Traut’s case can be found here.