WASHINGTON, November 10, 2012 — Every year we honor Veterans Day and every year we say we will do better for our men and women in uniform. And yet, we don’t do enough. We preach patriotism in this country, but too often we don’t practice what we preach, which is a national disgrace.
From the time of the Vietnam War when we reviled our returning vets for a war they never started to those returning home today from Iraq and Afghanistan, whom are too often used by our political leaders as props for their photo ops, our veterans are often treated as second class citizens, whether as outpatients after leaving our hospitals to being unemployed.
When nearly 16 million service men and women came marching home from World War II, they found jobs to support themselves and their families as well as the G.I. Bill to get them the kind of education they needed for those jobs. Nowadays, too often our vets find upon their return there are few jobs, little opportunity for schooling in their area, and maybe even the loss of their homes, all the while coping with the ramifications of our new warfare and the toll it has taken on their well-being. Even as our national unemployment rate has slipped to under 7.9%, the jobless rate for post 9/11 vets is 10%.
Suicide Rate Is High for Vets
Is it any wonder that the suicide rate has soared to a 30 year high among veterans? Although only 1% of Americans have served in the military, veterans represent 20% of the suicides in the America. They are losing the battle when they return home.
As we salute our heroes — those who fought for us, ready to make the ultimate sacrifice so our homeland remains secure and yet who often returned physically and emotionally damaged with a future that does not always shine so brightly — let’s pause to look at what must be done and what has been done.
First off, Congress must, must pass the Veterans Jobs Corps Act, S. 3457 that went down in flames, 58-40, when the Senate Republicans chose to block it earlier this year, preventing it from reaching the 60 votes necessary to get around the filibuster and thus passed. The Republicans said the bill’s price tag was too costly.
I guess dying on the road to Baghdad or being wounded at a checkpoint outside of Kabul is not costly. The Jobs Corps Act would have ultimately created jobs for over 720,000 unemployed veterans, including the more than 225,000 post 9/11 vets, ranging from jobs in law enforcement to conservation work to national parks employment to first responders.
Unique Talents of Returning Vets
And keep in mind that almost 200,000 men and women are moving from the military into civilian life each year. That’s a vast poll of talent for employers to hire. Not only are veterans used to highly sophisticated and technical equipment, they bring something unique to the work force not always seen there: strong teamwork, leadership, sense of duty and integrity, and reliability.
Fortunately, all of our military bases have Transition Assistance Programs to make it easier for vets to find jobs, including work sessions for them and their spouses. That is one way to help ease the move back into daily life in the States. But even this is not enough.
President Obama made a commitment to veterans when he decided to end the war in Iraq and draw down the troops in Afghanistan: when service men and women return home they can get the kind of education and jobs that they earned the hard way on the battlefield.
He has already set up and expanded the post 9/11 G.I. Bill, making it possible for 800,000 vets and their families to acquire the kind of schooling they need. And in his address this past Friday on the “fiscal cliff,” he renewed his pledge to make sure there are jobs for returning veterans. President Obama already has signed two tax credit bills for businesses that add unemployed veterans and “wounded warriors” to their companies.
Support Groups A Good First Step
Add to this the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, the Department of Defense and many non-profit groups are currently working to provide help to veterans in the process of shifting from the armed services to civilian life at all levels.
Other non-profits seek to rid the stigma of being a disabled vet, a double whammy for the vet returning with severe wounds, whether visible or not. Still other vets have set up support groups, but again America is still not meeting the needs of too many veterans.
Too often after the parade, after the speeches, after the cold, hard reality of life back in a peace time America, veterans find themselves adrift, isolated, often lost in the very country that fought to defend.
That’s why on Veteran’s Day, we must do more than say thank you. We must make sure that we compensate the men and women who served so valiantly with good jobs, a good education, and the good life they so richly they deserve.
It could start with Congress ending the game of politics and passing President Obama’s Jobs Corps Act, not only turning the economy around, but giving our veterans a real homecoming.
For more information on the Job Corps bill, read:
To contact Catherine Poe, see above. Her work appears in Ad Lib at the Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. She can also be heard on Democrats for America’s Future. She is also a contributor to broadcast, print and online media.
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