Fort McCoy News Nov. 13, 2015

Leave-donation program helps in times of need

BY AIMEE MALONE
Public Affairs Staff

The Voluntary Leave Transfer Program can help federal civilian employees cope with any gaps left after they have depleted or are projected to deplete their annual and/or sick leave because of medical emergencies.

"It can be used for yourself or (to care for) a Family member," said Human Resources Assistant Megan Gerzmehle with the Fort McCoy Civilian Personnel Advisory Center (CPAC).

For personal medical situations, employees must deplete both their annual and sick leave and be, or expect to be, in a leave-without-pay status for at least 24 hours to qualify for the program.

For Family medical situations, the employee must deplete only his or her annual leave and be, or expect to be, in a leave-without-pay status for at least 24 hours.

Employees do not have to wait until their leave is depleted to submit applications if the medical situation is expected to persist past the depletion date. Medical documentation from a physician or counselor is required.

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There is no limit on the amount of leave recipients may get from donors, but any unused leave is returned to the donors when the medical emergency ends. Donors may give only half of the annual leave they earn in a year, and only annual leave may be donated.

Leave also may be donated to or by employees at other installations or federal agencies. Donors must direct their leave be given to a specific person.

Fort McCoy CPAC periodically sends out lists of people seeking donations at Fort McCoy. Gerzmehle said participants can request that their names, situations, or both be kept private, in which case the list will show only "employee" and a department or command in place of the name.

"There are so many medical situations that come across my email that are so heartbreaking," Gerzmehle said.

Gerzmehle said she receives a steady stream of applications for the program, with about 60 people currently requesting donations. "It's not guaranteed that you're going to get donations, but when they do come in, it's very heartwarming," she said.

Housing Management Assistant Brenda Downing with the Directorate of Public Works is one person who has benefitted from the program. Downing has worked for government agencies for more than 25 years.

Downing said she knew about the program before using it by working at CPAC and through the emails sent out asking for donations, but she didn't think about it much before she was diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2014.

"Everything happened so fast," Downing said. "(There were) doctor's appointments to decide the course of treatment and tests to make sure the cancer had not spread."

She said the leave-donation program eased one worry, despite the stressors of medical appointments, treatments, surgery, recovery time, and insurance deductibles.

"It was a great relief to know that I would get paid every pay period," Downing said. "I knew that I had formed some good friendships through my years of working with the government, and this program shows the generous nature of the people at Fort McCoy.

"I would like to thank everyone for all of the love and support I received, and I would like everyone to know that I am cancer free," Downing added.

Fort McCoy Police Chief Robert Stapel also used the program for a Family medical situation.

Stapel said he was a relatively new employee who hadn't built up much leave when his wife was diagnosed with cancer in December 2010. He needed about six months off work to help his wife through the treatments.

He said that after he applied and was placed on the list, he received an "almost overwhelming" response from Fort McCoy employees, "who really reached out in a time of need for my Family and me."

Stapel said he urges people to take a serious look at the list CPAC circulates and consider what a donation would mean to them. He asked people to "really think about donating during this time of year … to those who really find themselves in need."

"Use or lose" leave must be used by Jan. 9, 2016. Leave may be forfeited if it is not scheduled in writing by Nov. 28.

Applications to donate to or request enrollment in the program are available online at https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/pay-leave/leave-administration/#url=Leave-Forms.

For more information about the leave-donation program or for help with the application process, call Gerzmehle at 608-388-4421.