Cantwell Secures Major Reforms in Coast Guard Reauthorization Bill

Bill will provide additional support for disabled Coast Guard service members, increases maternity leave

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) has secured major reforms within the United States Coast Guard as part of the Coast Guard Reauthorization Act of 2015 – a bill reauthorizing funding for the Coast Guard through fiscal year 2017. Cantwell’s reforms include expanding the Combat Related Special Compensation program and updating the Coast Guard’s maternity leave policies. The bill will now head to the House for consideration and likely be signed into law before the end of the year.

The Coast Guard bill also authorizes funding for all Coast Guard activities, including search and rescue missions and operational support for maritime national security. The Coast Guard has a personnel force of 43,000 Active Duty and Reserve members including 2,047 active duty members and 440 Coast Guard reservists in Washington state.

“This bill provides the Coast Guard with the tools it needs to protect our nation and keep our waterways secure. The key reforms in this bill will ensure Coast Guard members receive the same benefits as other branches of our military when it comes to maternity leave and injury compensation for our veterans,” said Senator Cantwell. “By tripling maternity leave for Coast Guard women, we establish a valuable retention tool to help the Coast Guard invest in women and their families.  And expanding Combat Related Special Compensation, another priority for Washington state veterans, ensures disabled Coast Guard veterans receive all the benefits they deserve.”

Coast Guard Maternity Leave

Coast Guard service members currently receive 6 weeks of maternity leave, which is 12 weeks less than their counterparts in the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps. Senator Cantwell’s amendment would require the Coast Guard to ensure parity between Coast Guard parental leave and parental leave policies in the U.S. Navy – tripling the current amount of maternity leave for women serving our country in the Coast Guard from 6 weeks to 18 weeks. Senator Cantwell also wrote a letter to the Commandant of the Coast Guard, calling on him to use his existing authority to expand maternity leave earlier this year.

In a recent report – The Economics of Paid and Unpaid Leave – the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers found that extended maternity leave polices improve the health of mothers and children, while improving the retention of talented women in the workforce. Along with a growing number of private sector companies, the U.S. Navy recently announced important new policy that triples maternity leave to 18-weeks for all active duty women serving in the United States Navy and the Marine Corps.

Combat Related Special Compensation

The Combat Related Special Compensation program provides post service financial benefits for service members with disabilities from injuries sustained from activities during active duty service. Senator Cantwell’s amendment would ensure retired disabled Coast Guard service members are able to receive the same Combat-Related Special Compensation benefits as other services.

Congress originally created the Combat Related Special Compensation Program in 2002 for Purple Heart recipients. The program was later expanded in 2004 and 2008 to include all retirees with combat-related disabilities and expand eligibility to injuries sustained from armed conflict, hazardous service and certain types of training.  Over the last year, Senator Cantwell met with members of the Coast Guard who met the criteria for Combat Related Special Compensation, but were denied simply because they were members of the Coast Guard, and not serving in the Navy, Army, Marines or Air Force. Senator Cantwell’s reforms ensure Coast Guard service members are covered.


Also included in the bill is a Cantwell-authored provision authorizing $14 million over the next two years for design of a new icebreaker.

“While this is a good first step toward new icebreakers, we need a full commitment from President Obama on new icebreaker acquisition and a national Arctic strategy in the next budget request,” added Cantwell.