Since leaving the military, I’ve worked closely with my fellow veterans, spending three years helping them find meaningful employment and another three years sharing vets’ stories. In that time, I’ve met too many hardworking, resourceful veterans experiencing homelessness following an illness or injury that impacted their ability to work – folks that paid family and medical leave could have helped.

I know first-hand what it’s like to need time off from work due to an illness. After my military service, I was diagnosed with anxiety, PTSD (from non-combat trauma) and depression. Even with treatment, I struggled. Eventually, I burned out.

Amid a mental health crisis, I took medical leave from my job to attend an intensive treatment program. Ultimately, I decided to leave that job for one that offered more work/life balance. But three months into my new job, I hit a wall again. This time, it was even more serious. I, again, took medical leave from work. Fortunately, I was eligible for temporary disability benefits while I pursued treatment.

Having time to heal, access to good healthcare and the ability to pay my bills saved my life.

The truth is, if you can get through your career without a serious illness, injury or becoming the caregiver for a family member, you’re incredibly lucky. Without paid family and medical leave, people deal with these challenges at the expense of their health, their family’s financial well-being or both.

Rhiannon Guzelian

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