(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee introduced major legislation to help veterans struggling to find work and to address rising unemployment among our nation’s heroes. Senator Murray’s bill, the Hiring Heroes Act of 2011, is the first of its kind to require broad job skills training for all service members returning home and comes at a time when more than one in four veterans aged 20-24 are unemployed. In addition to requiring that each separating service member attend a transition assistance program, the bill will also create new direct federal hiring authority so that more service members have jobs waiting for them the day they leave the military, and will improve veteran mentorship programs in the working world.
Senator Murray discusses her bill to provide help for veterans looking for work. Joining Senator Murray are from l to r Senator Chris Coons, Senator Jon Tester, and Eric Smith a currently unemployed Iraq War veteran.
The following are Senator Murray’s remarks at today’s
Thank you all so much for coming out today.
I first want to thank Senators Tester, Begich, and
Coons for joining us today to speak about this critical issue in their states
and across the nation.
I’d also like to say a special thank you to Senator
Murkowski who couldn’t be here today, but who has joined a growing list of
sponsors and has helped to bring support from across the aisle to an effort
that should certainly never be partisan.
I also want to thank Eric Smith for coming here from
Baltimore to tell all of you a first-hand account of what it’s like to come
home from two tours in Iraq serving our nation, only to have to fight every day
to find work.
And finally I want to thank all of the veterans
service organizations and their representatives that are joining us to help
introduce this landmark bill – they include the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans
of America (IAVA), the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), the
Disabled American Veterans (DAV), the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), and the
Today, with the help of everyone here, we are taking a
huge step forward in rethinking the way we treat our men and women in uniform
after they leave the military.
For too long in this country we have invested billions
of dollars in training our young men and women with new skills to protect our
nation - only to ignore them once they left the military. For too long, at the
end of their career we patted our veterans on the back for their service and
then pushed them out into the job market alone.
And where has that left us today?
Today, we have an unemployment rate of over 27% among
young veterans coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan. That is over one in five
of our nation’s heroes who can’t find a job to support their family, don’t have
an income that provides stability, and don’t have work that provides them with
the self-esteem and pride that is so critical to their transition home.
And all too often we read about the results of
veterans who come home - often with the invisible wounds of war –who can’t find
the dignity and security that work provides. We read about it in skyrocketing
suicide statistics, problems at home, substance abuse, and even in rising
homelessness among our young veterans.
But I also have heard about it first-hand from the veterans
that we’ve failed to provide better job support to. I’ve had veterans tell me
that they no longer write the fact that they’re a veteran on their resume
because they fear the stigma that they believe employers attach to the
invisible wounds of war. I’ve heard from medics who return home from treating
battlefield wounds who can’t get certifications to be an EMT or to drive an
ambulance. I’ve talked to veteran after veteran who’ve said they didn’t have to
go through the military’s job skills training program, or that they were never
taught how to use the vernacular of the business world to describe the benefits
of their experience.
These stories are as heartbreaking as they are
frustrating. But more than anything they’re a reminder that we have to act now.
The bill we are introducing today allows our men and
women in uniform to capitalize on their service, while also ensuring the
American people capitalize on the investment we have made in them.
For the first time, it would require broad job skills training
for every service member as they leave the military as part of the military’s
Transition Assistance Program.
Today, nearly one-third of those leaving the Army
don’t get this training.
This bill would also allow service members to begin
the federal employment process prior to separation in order to
facilitate a truly seamless transition from the military to jobs at the VA,
Homeland Security, or the many other federal agencies in need of our veterans.
This bill will also require the Department of Labor to
take a hard look at what military skills and training should be translatable
into the civilian sector, and will work to make it simpler to get the licenses
and certification our veterans need.
All of these are real, substantial steps to put our
veterans to work.
And all of them come at a pivotal time for our
economic recovery and our veterans.
You know, I grew up with the Vietnam War - and I have
dedicated much of my Senate career to helping to care for the veterans we left
behind at that time.The mistakes we made then have cost our nation and our
veterans dearly and have weighed on the conscience of this nation. Today we
stand on the brink of repeating those mistakes.
We can’t let that happen. Our nation’s veterans are
disciplined, team players who have proven they can deliver under pressure like
no one else.
It’s time for us to deliver for them.