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.
The bill was introduced today by Chairman Murray (D-WA) and co-sponsored by Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Max Baucus (D-MT), Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Jon Tester (D-MT), Mark Begich (D-AK), Robert Casey (D-PA), Scott Brown (R-MA), and Chris Coons (D-DE).
The bill is also supported by Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, Military Officers Association of America, and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.
"For too long we have invested billions of dollars in training our young men and women in uniform with new skills to protect our nation, only to pat them on the back after their service and push them out into the job market alone," said Chairman Murray. "This has cost our nation and our veterans dearly. For the first time, this bill will require that our service members get the training they need to translate the skills they learned in the military into the working world. It will also provide faster pathways to private sector and federal employment so our veterans aren't left in limbo after they leave the military."
"It is tragic our men and women in uniform come back from combat and find that some federal and private sector employers do not appreciate, or question, how veterans' skill-sets and commitment translate to the workplace. I am proud to add my name to a bill that gives veterans the skills they need to compete for jobs, an opportunity for a non-competitive appointment to the federal civil service, and enhanced vocational rehabilitation if they need it. Actions speak louder than words, and I hope this bill empowers our men and women of action with the skills and the support to hear the words "You're hired,'" said Senator Murkowski, the lead Republican co-sponsor of the bill.
"For too many veterans, especially among those who have served in the Guard and Reserves, the fight does not end when they return from the battlefield and take off the uniform. For some, another ordeal is only beginning. This new struggle is for a decent-paying job that puts food on the table and a roof over the heads of these veterans and their families," said Senator Leahy. "Vermonters understand how much we owe it to those who defend us to make sure they are fully employed when they return, so I am very proud to join Senator Murray in offering this bill. I hope it passes quickly."
"We have a responsibility to support our military men and women not only by providing the resources they need to serve, but also by making sure they have the tools they need to get good-paying jobs when that service is over," said Finance Committee Chairman and author of the VETs Jobs bill, Max Baucus. "If a soldier serves our country proudly as a medic, they are more than qualified to earn a living as an EMT when that service is over. If a service member can drive sophisticated equipment protecting our country overseas, they shouldn't have to jump through hoops to get a job as a truck driver here at home. And all of our troops should have access to the job training they need, when they need it. This bill is a straightforward solution that puts common sense into practice to help our military service members get the good-paying jobs they deserve when their service is over."
"When troops return from often multiple tours of duty abroad, the least we can do is help them find a decent job and land on their feet so that they can support themselves and their families," said Senator Jay Rockefeller, who is the longest serving member on the Veterans' Affairs Committee. "It's a sad truth that too many of our young vets are unable to find jobs when they come home. This is something that we can change, and this bill does that with smart investments in training and hiring assistance. Veterans in West Virginia and across the country chose to put this country above all else, and they deserve our unwavering support both on and off the front lines."
"Our nation's veterans are well trained, highly skilled, experienced, and capable," said Senator Daniel K. Akaka. "The Hiring Heroes Act will provide opportunities for those completing military service to get jobs in the federal government, helping them to successfully transition to civilian life while keeping their talent for the benefit of the American public. This is a win-win for our veterans and the country."
"This country is grateful for the courage and dedication of our veterans, which continues long after they take off the uniform. This bill provides these heroic men and women not just the job assistance they deserve but a path for success in the future," said Senator Boxer.
"The nation has a commitment to our service members and their families to help make sure their transition from military service to the civilian workforce is both timely and successful," said Senator Bernie Sanders. "Meaningful employment is the key to prevent many social and economic challenges we see some veterans facing today."
"Our veterans' service to our country does not stop when they leave the military. From leadership experience to technical and scientific skills, veterans are key to our nation's economic competitiveness. We must honor our commitment to them and empower them to lead our nation in civilian life as they did while in uniform," said Senator Sherrod Brown.
"We have a responsibility to empower America's veterans with the tools they need to find good-paying jobs after they put their lives on the line for our freedoms," Senator Jon Tester, Montana's member of the Veterans' Affairs Committee. "This legislation eases the transition between military service and the civilian workforce, setting Montana's veterans up for success. They deserve no less."
"When our veterans are returning from war zones, far too many are having a difficult time finding a job, and that is unacceptable," said Senator Begich. "This legislation is designed to help our service members find employment, get training, and be able to transition home without the headache of a job search. They have some of the best skills any employer could ask for and we need to do more to promote their success."
"We have an obligation to take care of our men and women in uniform not only when they are fighting to keep our country safe, but also when they return home," said Senator Brown, a member of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee. "This bipartisan legislation reflects our commitment to ensuring veterans have ample opportunities to find a job when they decide to leave the military, and I am proud to be introducing it along with my colleagues."
"As we bring more and more of our troops home from conflicts abroad to a country still recovering from this difficult recession, it is more important than ever to equip our veterans with the resources necessary to successfully reenter civilian life," Senator Coons said. "As they conclude their brave service to their country, we must make it a priority to connect returning soldiers with job training and job opportunities. It's not enough for us to bring them home -- it's our duty and responsibility to give them the tools and training to be as successful in civilian life as they were while they were deployed."
"This legislation will go a long way toward meeting the transitional needs of America's heroes," said Peter Gaytan, Executive Director of the American Legion in Washington. "Many of our returning veterans have been struggling to find adequate employment at home, and passing a bill that provides them with job-training to help them back into the work force is commendable."
"A veteran's successful reintegration into society begins with employment," said Veterans of Foreign Wars U.S. Legislative Director Ray Kelley. "The VFW salutes Chairman Murray for this legislation. It not only improves existing programs, it will allow service members to quickly transition into civilian careers and ensures that veterans who continue to struggle to find employment are given greater access to the system that is in place to support them."
"With high unemployment rate facing veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, Chairwomen Patty Murray's legislation, "Hiring Heroes Act of 2011,' will greatly improve employment opportunities for these veterans, especially disabled veterans," said Dave Gorman, Executive Director of The Disabled American Veterans. "With enhancements to vocational rehabilitations programs, mandatory Transitional Assistance Programs, and enhancement of credentialing and licensing programs, among others, this bill will great improve the transition from the military into the civilian workforce. The Disabled American Veterans supports this legislation."
"MOAA strongly supports this important legislation. In these challenging economic times, there is no greater good than helping our Nation's warriors, who have given so much over the past decade, transition from military life to a civilian career. MOAA thanks Chairman Murray and all the co-sponsors of the "Hiring Heroes Act of 2011" for their continuing support of those men and women who serve and have served our Nation," said Vice Adm. Norb Ryan, Jr., USN-Ret, President of Military Officers Association of America (MOAA).