Nebraska Association
of Public Employees

Union Members Prevail in Grievance for NAPE/AFSCME Military Veterans

NAPE/AFSCME members Grant Ottinger and Paul Curry recently prevailed in grievances after the state denied them veterans’ benefits that are guaranteed by our union contract.

After our union members had already ratified our 2023-2025 union contract, the governor’s chief negotiator approached us about renegotiating a benefit for state employees who are military veterans. Our union’s elected bargaining team then reconvened and negotiated the benefit which entitled veterans to a monthly stipend if they use the military’s TRICARE insurance instead of state-provided health insurance.

In July when this benefit was supposed to take effect, the Department of Administrative Services (DAS) unilaterally added a requirement that limited the stipend exclusively to veterans who served for 20 years or more.

Paul Curry, a Workforce Coordinator for the Department of Labor, and Grant Ottinger, an Emergency Management Program Specialist for the Military Department, contacted our union after learning that DAS had denied their veterans’ benefits under our contract. Grievances were promptly filed on their behalf.

Paul was a truck driver for the Army. He medically retired after 11 years of service, which included two combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Grant, who worked on Black Hawk helicopters during his time in service, was injured and medically retired as well.

“When DAS came out with its understanding of the rule, they had changed it greatly to make a large percentage of veterans no longer eligible,” Paul said.

For both Paul and Grant, the monthly stipend was going to help them afford any medical costs that aren’t covered by TRICARE and would otherwise have to come out of pocket.

Grant, who has seven kids, also noted that out-of-pocket expenses are a point of stress for his family every month.

“The cost for paying for my family’s benefits anywhere in general, either through the state or any employer, is astronomical,” he said.

NAPE/AFSCME successfully argued that DAS violated our union contract by adding a requirement that was not contained in our contract. In October, a hearing officer officially ruled in Paul and Grant’s favor.

“It was a huge relief to finally win something and actually be listened to and not just swept under the rug,” Paul said.

“For me and my family, we can take a deep breath every month because we’re able to make ends meet now,” Grant said. “For me and all veterans, this is a huge win.”

Our union is committed to fighting for our veterans and all of our members when their rights at work are violated. 

“What it means to me that the union stood up for me — and especially other veterans — is that, you know, veterans get the short end of the stick in a lot of things,” Paul said. “It was great that somebody jumped on the grenade for me and was ready to go to battle and ride it through the end. You just don’t see that very often.”

If you are a United States military veteran and State of Nebraska employee who uses TRICARE and you are not being paid a monthly stipend, contact us for assistance. 

Nebraska Association of
Public Employees