Listen  -  Senator Murray’s exchange with the first panel

Listen  -  Senator Murray’s exchange with the second panel

(Washington D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), a member of the Committee on Veterans Affairs, discussed her veterans employment bill during a hearing on pending legislation. Murray’s bill, which is the first major comprehensive effort to combat high unemployment rates among veterans, is expected to be passed in committee.

“This is a very helpful bill, and a bill that is very timely,” said Raymond M. Jefferson, Assistant Secretary for Veterans’ Employment and Training, U.S. Department of Labor, during the hearing. The fact that it provides additional skills for veterans, the fact that it promotes entrepreneurship and the opportunity for veterans to create their own businesses, and also that it promotes increased hiring by employers. So I just wanted to say up front, that we strongly support the goals of this.”

Murray’s bill seeks to address the skyrocketing unemployment rate among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans with a series of proposals that improve training, skills transition, education, and small business assistance programs. 

Read the full text of Senator Murray’s opening statement below: 

Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Burr, thank you for holding today’s hearing on pending health care and benefits legislation.

I want to take a moment to speak about a bill that is before the committee this morning – the Veteran Employment Assistance Act of 2010. Right now 13% of the young men and women who have served since September 11, 2001 find themselves without a job – which is still higher than their peers that chose not to serve and this unacceptable.

That means many of our nation’s most dedicated and disciplined workers 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.

Last month, I introduced the Veteran Employment Assistance Act to help these veterans make the transition from the battlefield to the working world. It is a bill designed to ensure that our veterans don’t have to go from fighting to keep us safe - to fighting just to get an interview - in a country that owes its economic security to their work. It’s a bill that includes new business opportunities, expands existing programs, and builds a bridge for our veterans into family-wage jobs. It includes an expansion of the Post 9/11 GI Bill to include job training and apprenticeship programs. It will set up a Veterans Business Center within the Small Business Administration to help our veterans get the skills and resources to start their own businesses – because one thing we know is that when veterans open their own businesses they hire other veterans.

It expands innovative state programs like the Conservation Corps program in Washington state that provides veterans with access to education and allows them to reconnect with other veterans while improving our land and communities. And it seeks to provide our National Guard members with the transition services they deserve at a time when their brave and repeated service in Iraq and Afghanistan continues not to be met with the support and benefits they’ve earned when they come home.

It’s a bill that comes at a real turning point – in our economy and for our military.  And I think it’s time Congress takes real, comprehensive, steps to put our veterans to work.  And that’s just what the Veteran Employment Assistance Act will do.

I also want to thank all of my cosponsors for supporting this bill including my fellow committee members, Senator Mark Begich and Senator Sherrod Brown, for their support of the bill – and I would urge our colleagues to join us in support.

Thank you Mr. Chairman.  I look forward to hearing from today’s witnesses.