This is the first Veterans Day in Iowa where those who’ve served the country can request the day off, if it’s not already a holiday for them. State legislators passed the bill earlier this year as a way to honor those who’ve been in uniform. Pat Palmersheim, executive director of the Iowa Department of Veterans Affairs, says he’s fielded a lot of questions about the new benefit.
“Most of the businesses that I have talked to that have called and asked me for the law and the description of a veteran are very supportive of it,” Palmersheim says. “They understand it completely. Hopefully, it doesn’t cause any inconvenience to the businesses. I’m sure there are other employees that don’t think it’s right that the veteran gets the day off and they don’t. I guess that’s the benefit of serving his country.”
Some legislators opposed the bill, fearing it would put an undue burden on businesses. The original version of the bill would have fined businesses or government agencies $500 for refusing to grant a veteran the day off, but that element was stripped from the final version. Palmersheim says veterans and businesses only need to follow a few basic rules.
“The way it works, they had to ask for the day off from their employer 30 days in advance and then ten days prior to Veterans Day, they were to be notified by their employer whether they had it off and whether it was going to be paid or not,” Palmersheim says. “The stipulation is, it does not have to be paid but it can be, it’s purely up to the employer.” He says the state ended up changing how it classifies veterans a few months ago.
“In Iowa, the definition of a veteran prior to this year, you had to have served during a war period in order to be classified as a veteran,” Palmersheim says. “Now, as of July 1st, you have to have one day active duty, other than training, anytime, and you fall under that classification as a veteran and will be eligible for it.”
The bill was sponsored in the legislature by Representative Ray Zirkelbach, a Democrat from Monticello, who spent nearly two years in Iraq with an Iowa National Guard unit. It’s unclear how many veterans are taking advantage of this new option today, though it’s estimated about 158,000 veterans work in the private sector in Iowa.