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Senator Murray Urges Passage of Veterans Jobs Corps Bill

Sep 11 2012

Bill would help train and hire veterans as police officers, firefighters, and at our national and state parks

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(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Tuesday, September 11th, Senator Patty Murray, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, spoke on the Senate floor in support of the Veterans Jobs Corps Act of 2012, which she is co-sponsoring. At a time when over 720,000 veterans are unemployed, this bill would increase training and hiring opportunities for our nation’s veterans, especially those from the post-9/11 era. The Veterans Jobs Corps Act would help put our veterans back to work as police officers, fire fighters, and other first responders, positions that our communities are in sore need of after 85 percent of law enforcement agencies were forced to reduce their budget in the past year.  In addition, this bill would also help train and hire veterans to help restore and protect our national, state, and tribal forests, our parks, our coastal areas, wildlife refuges, and VA cemeteries.  Senator Murray pointed out that the bill contains ideas from both sides of the aisle, is fully paid for with bipartisan spending offsets, and should not be controversial at a time when our veterans continue to struggle. The bill is expected to be considered by the full Senate this week.

“I urge my colleagues to build on the successes we have had in passing bipartisan veterans employment legislation. Veterans returning home all across the country are watching us and they certainly don’t have time to let politics block their path to a job that will help serve their community,” Senator Murray said. “Surely, this is something that we can show them that we can come together on, no matter how close or far away we are from an election.”  

Key excerpts from Senator Murray’s speech:

 “Our veterans have what it takes to not only find work, but to excel in the workforce of the 21st century.”

“We cannot and should not let that training – or the millions of dollars we have invested in these men and women - go to waste.  But in far too many instances that’s what has happened.  Too often, on the day our service members are discharged, we as a nation pat them on their back for their service, without also giving them a helping hand into the job market. This has to end.”  

“I urge my colleagues to build on the successes we have had in passing bipartisan veterans employment legislation. Veterans returning home all across the country are watching us and they certainly don’t have time to let politics block their path to a job that will help serve their community.”

The full text of Senator Murray’s speech:

“Mr. President, last Friday, we were again reminded of the difficult employment picture our nation’s veterans continue to face.

“In the monthly unemployment report for August, we saw that across the country there are over 720,000 unemployed veterans.

“It’s a number that includes over 225,000 post-9/11 veterans - many of whom have served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan - and have sacrificed time and again for our safety.

“Put simply, this shouldn’t be the case.

“Our veterans have what it takes to not only find work, but to excel in the workforce of the 21st century.

“In fact, the characteristics that our veterans exemplify read like the job qualifications you might find at any major company or small business. That’s because they have: leadership ability; discipline; and technical skills.

“They know the value of teamwork like few others, and they certainly know how to perform under pressure.

“And they have these skills because, as a country, we have invested in training them.

“We cannot and should not let that training – or the millions of dollars we have invested in these men and women - go to waste.

“But in far too many instances that’s what has happened.

“Too often, on the day our service members are discharged, we as a nation pat them on their back for their service, without also giving them a helping hand into the job market.

“This has to end.

“And Mr. President, this Senate has taken bipartisan action in the past to begin to change the way our veterans transition from the battlefield to the job market.

“We were able to pass the VOW to Hire Heroes Act, which I co-authored, and which was signed into law last year.

“Importantly, that new law transforms the way that we provide transition training to our service members when they leave the military.

“It also includes a provision that today in my home state, and all across the country, is providing thousands of dollars in tax credits to businesses that are hiring veterans.

“In addition to that bill, we have also worked to build partnerships with private sector businesses in order to tap into the tremendous amount of goodwill that companies have toward our returning heroes.

“Sometimes this is a simple as working with companies to show them easy steps that help bring veterans aboard, like ensuring they are advertising job openings with local veterans service organizations and on local military bases, or having veterans in their HR departments. Or just having someone on staff that can help translate the experience of veterans into the work a company does.

“Time and again - at big companies like Microsoft and Amazon – or much smaller businesses I have seen these steps make an impact.

“But beyond these steps – it is clear that more needs to be done.

“Particularly, when veterans unemployment rates among young veterans ages 18-24 continues to hover around 20% action must be taken. Because that is one in five of our young veterans who can’t find a job to support their family; one in five that don’t have an income that provides stability; and one in five that don’t have work that provides them with the self-esteem and pride that is so critical to their transition home.

“It’s a problem that manifests itself in veterans homelessness, in broken families, and far too often in our veterans taking their own lives.

"It’s a problem that neither the veterans themselves, nor government alone, can solve.

“But it is also one we need to do everything we can to address.

“And here in the Senate that means a bipartisan ‘all hands on deck’ strategy.

“And that is exactly what the Veterans Jobs Corps represents.

“Over the next five years, the Veterans Jobs Corps will increase training and hiring opportunities for all veterans using successful job training programs from across the country.

“It will help hire qualified veterans as police officers, fire fighters and other first responders at a time when 85 percent of law enforcement agencies were forced to reduce their budget in the past year.

“It will also help train and hire veterans to help restore and protect our national, state, and tribal forests, our parks, and other public lands.

“All at a time when we face a $10 billion maintenance backlog for our public lands – a backlog I have seen personally in many of the parks and lands in my home state of Washington.

“And because training and hiring our veterans has never been, and should never be, an effort that divides us along partisan lines - the Veterans Jobs Corps takes good ideas from both sides of the aisle.

“In fact, the bill will provide veterans with access to the internet and computers to conduct job searches at one-stop centers and certain other locations an idea championed by Senator Toomey.  It will help guarantee that rural and disabled veterans’ have access to veterans’ employment representatives a bill from Senator Tester.  It will increase transition assistance programs for eligible veterans and their spouses a bill that was introduced by Senator Boozman. And it will require consideration of a veteran’s training or experience gained while serving on active duty when they seek certification and licenses a bill cosponsored by Democrats and Republicans.

“This bill says that all good ideas are welcome, because our veterans need all the help they can get.

“And it is also fully paid for in a bipartisan way.

“It has been endorsed most recently by the National Association of Police Organizations but there are also many veterans service organizations that stand behind this bill.

“And they do so because they know that helping veterans find employment is critical to meeting so many of the challenges they face returning home.

“You know, Mr. President our veterans don’t ask for a lot.

“Often times they come home and don’t even acknowledge their own sacrifices.

“My own father never talked about his time fighting in World War II.

 “In fact, I never saw his Purple Heart, or knew that he had a wallet with shrapnel in it, or a diary that detailed his time in combat, until after he had died and my family gathered to sort through his belongings.

“But our veterans shouldn’t have to ask.

“We should know to provide for them.

“When my father’s generation came home from the war – they came home to opportunity.

“My father came home to a community that supported him.

“He came home to college - then to a job.

“A job that gave him pride.

“A job that helped him start a family.

“And one that ultimately led to me starting my own.

“That’s the legacy of opportunity this Senate has to live up to for today’s veterans. 

“I urge my colleagues to build on the successes we have had in passing bipartisan veterans employment legislation.

“Veterans returning home all across the country are watching us and they certainly don’t have time to let politics block their path to a job that will help serve their community.

“Surely, this is something that we can show them that we can come together on, no matter how close or far away we are from an election.

“Thank you, Mr. President. I yield the floor.”