Nov 11 2011
Worcester Telegram: Giving back for our heroes by Senator Scott Brown
By Senator Scott Brown (MA)
On Veterans Day we honor the 24 million Americans who, at one time or another, have answered the call to serve their country in uniform. It's fitting to set aside a day to honor these remarkable men and women. But also today, we as a nation must renew our commitment to these American warriors.
For ten years, thousands of our nation's Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have shown uncommon courage and resilience during multiple deployments. We are lucky to live in a country where brave men and women are willing to risk everything so that we can be safe. They fight for each other, for us, and for the ideals that form the fabric that binds us together as one people -- principles like freedom, equal justice and democratic government.
Unfortunately, too often we rally to salute Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines while they are deployed, only to fall short of providing them with the support they need and deserve when they return. Our nation's newest veterans often grapple with staggering unemployment levels, homelessness, and combat-related disabilities. Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom veterans face an unemployment rate of 12.1 percent -- more than 3 points above our national average. That means, right now, at least 240,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are struggling to find a job somewhere. In the Guard and Reserves, the numbers are even worse -- with unemployment as high as 20 percent.
It is absolutely unacceptable to think that a veteran should be forced to come home after a deployment, where he or she served at great personal sacrifice, to face an entirely new battle against unemployment or homelessness. These unemployment figures should be a call to action.
Last February, I introduced the Hire a Hero tax credit with Senator Kay Hagan of North Carolina, which seeks to expand the Work Opportunity Tax Credit to create incentives for small businesses to hire returning veterans, including members of the National Guard and Reserves. In September, President Obama announced his American Jobs Act,which also included a similar provision expanding the Work Opportunity Tax Credit to businesses that hire our returning heroes who are looking for work.
Finally, yesterday, the day before Veterans Day, the Senate broke through the gridlock and passed this legislation on a bipartisan basis.
In addition to the tax incentives, the legislation takes new steps that will help our veterans find jobs. It will revamp an antiquated Transition Assistance Program, improving the way our armed services prepare active duty members for the transition from the military to the civilian workplace. I've heard many veterans say that they need help explaining to prospective employers the marketable skills they developed in the military.
We also need to make sure that employers understand why hiring our veterans is such a good investment.
This effort is about more than our veterans. It is also about their families -- the spouses, children, parents and others who have shared in the sacrifice of their loved one serving our country. Helping our veterans find jobs restores an economic and emotional security that these families have sacrificed on behalf of the rest of us. We need to remember that we don't just owe a debt to the individual who wore the uniform; we have a responsibility to their families as well.
There's more that we can and should do. Our veterans fought and sacrificed to protect the United States. They should come home to our thanks, our gratitude, and offers of assistance -- not an unemployment check. As America celebrates and honors the contribution of our veterans on 11-11-11, we must come together as a nation and take action to help those who have served.
Sen. Scott P. Brown represents Massachusetts in the U.S. Senate.