(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray gave a speech on the Senate Floor in support of the “VOW to Hire Heroes Act”, bipartisan, bicameral, comprehensive legislation that would lower the rate of unemployment among our nation’s veterans. This bill combines provisions of Senator Murray’s Hiring Heroes Act (S. 951; Report #112-36), Representative Miller’s Veterans Opportunity to Work Act (H.R. 2433; Report #112-242), and veterans’ tax credits into a comprehensive package that will aggressively attack the unacceptably high rate of veteran’s unemployment. The Senator urged her colleagues to pass this important legislation by Veterans Day.
“Each day we read about skyrocketing suicide statistics, substance abuse problems, and even rising homelessness among the post-9/11 generation of veterans,” Senator Murray said. “And while there are many factors that contribute to these challenges -- the failure to give our veterans the self-confidence, financial security, and dignity that a job provides often plays a crucial role. So on this Veterans Day we need to redouble our efforts to avoid the mistakes that have cost our veterans dearly - and that have weighed on the collective conscience of this nation.”
Read the full text of the speech below:
“Mr. President, I’ve come to the floor today to discuss the VOW to Hire Heroes Act – an amendment to put our nation’s veterans back to work - that we will be voting on tomorrow - on the eve of Veterans Day.
“The real meaning of Veterans Day is to remind ourselves to take care of service-connected veterans and their families. This amendment does that.
“Now, Mr. President, we all realize that this chamber has had its share of disagreements and discord lately.
“It’s no secret that we are sharply divided on any number of economic and political issues facing average Americans right now.
“But this is one issue we should never be divided on.
“I’ve served on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee for over 16 years and I can tell you that veterans have never been a partisan issue.
“We have all made a promise to those who have signed up to serve.
“And we all need to keep it.
“That’s why I’ve been so pleased to work to put this amendment together in a comprehensive and bipartisan manner.
“This amendment brings all ideas to the table: Republican and Democratic, House and Senate, those from the President and from members of Congress.
“And it uses all those ideas to address one of the most daunting and immediate problems facing our nation’s veterans: finding work.
“Mr. President, on this Veterans Day – after almost ten years of war - nearly one million American veterans will be unemployed.
“It’s a crisis they face with nearly 13 million other Americans - but for our veterans many of the barriers to employment are unique.
“That’s because for those who have worn our nation’s uniform - and particularly for those young veterans who have spent the last decade being shuttled back and forth to war zones half a world away: The road home isn’t always smooth. The red tape is often long. And the transition from the battlefield to the work place is never easy.
“Too often today our veterans are being left behind by their peers who didn’t make the same sacrifices for their nation at a critical time in their lives.
“Too often they don’t realize the skills they possess and their value in the workplace.
“And too often our veterans are not finding open doors to new opportunities in their communities.
“But as those who know the character and experiences of our veterans understand well, this shouldn’t be the case.
“Our veterans have the leadership ability, discipline, and technical skills to not only find work, but to excel in the economy of the 21st century.
“And that’s why two years ago I began an effort - to find out why - despite all the talent and drive I know our veterans possess - this problem persists.
“To get to the crux of this problem I knew I had to hear first-hand from those veterans struggling to find work.
“So I crisscrossed my home state of Washington and in communities large and small, at worker retraining programs, in VA facilities, and in veterans’ halls.
“I sat down with veterans to talk about the roadblocks they face.
“What I heard was heartbreaking and frustrating.
“I heard from veterans who said they no longer write that they’re a veteran on their resume because of the stigma they believe employers attach to the invisible wounds of war.
“I heard from medics who return home from treating battlefield wounds and can’t get certifications to be an EMT or to drive an ambulance.
“I spoke with veterans who said that many employers had trouble understanding the vernacular they used to describe their experiences in an interview or on a resume.
“I talked to veterans who told me that the military spent incalculable hours getting them the skills to do their job in the field, but little time teaching them how to transition those skills into the workplace.
“The problems were sometimes complicated and sometimes simple.
“Most importantly though – they were preventable.
“But the more I relayed the concerns of our state’s unemployed veterans to federal government officials for answers, the more I realized there were none.
“It became clear that for too long we have invested billions of dollars in training our young men and women with skills to protect our nation - only to ignore them once they leave 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.
“That’s why in May of this year, as Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I introduced a bipartisan veterans employment bill to ease the transition from the battlefield to the working world.
“It’s a bill that 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 requires broad job skills training for every service member as they leave the military as part of the military’s Transition Assistance Program.
“It allows service members to begin the federal employment process prior to separation in order to facilitate a truly seamless transition from the military to jobs in government.
“And it requires the Department of Labor to take a hard look at what military skills and training should be translatable into the civilian sector in order to make it simpler for our veterans to get the licenses and certifications they need.
“All of these are real, substantial steps to put our veterans to work.
“And today they are being combined with other great ideas in this comprehensive amendment.
“Including an idea championed by my House counterpart, Chairman Miller, that will ease the employment struggles of our older veterans by providing them with additional education benefits so that they can train for high-demand jobs.
“And an idea that’s been championed by President Obama, Senator Baucus, and many others that provides a tax credit for employers that hire veterans.
“Mr. President, with this amendment we are taking a huge step forward in rethinking the way we treat our men and women in uniform after they leave the military.
“And for many of us, particularly those who grew up with the Vietnam War - we are also taking steps to avoid the mistakes of the past – mistakes we stand perilously close to repeating.
“You know, each day we read about skyrocketing suicide statistics, substance abuse problems, and even rising homelessness among the post-9/11 generation of veterans.
“And while there are many factors that contribute to these challenges –
“The failure to give our veterans the self-confidence, financial security, and dignity that a job provides often plays a crucial role.
“So on this Veterans Day we need to redouble our efforts to avoid the mistakes that have cost our veterans dearly - and that have weighed on the collective conscience of this nation.
“We must do that by passing this amendment - but also by looking back on a time when we stepped up to meet the promise we made to our veterans.
“Mr. President, as I’ve probably mentioned on the floor here before, my father was a veteran of World War II.
“But what I don’t always talk about is the fact that when he came home from war – he came home to opportunity.
“First to college - then to a job.
“A job that gave him pride.
“A job that helped him and my mother raise seven children - who’ve gone on to support families of their own.
“This is the legacy of opportunity we have to live up to for our nation’s veterans.
“This is the responsibility we have on our shoulders.
“It doesn’t end on the battlefield.
“It doesn’t end after the parades on Friday.
“In fact, it doesn’t end.
“I urge my colleagues to put aside our differences.
“To come together.
“And to meet the challenge of putting our veterans to work.
“Thank you Mr. President.
“I yield the floor.”