As our nation commemorates Veterans Day and we reflect on the incalculable sacrifices made by American servicemen and women, I wanted to take the opportunity to let you know about a significant challenge facing our nation's returning veterans, and what I think Congress must do to honor its responsibility to our heroes.
Unemployment is not a problem unique to veterans. However, veterans are disproportionately impacted by the struggling economy. While the national unemployment rate is a too-high nine percent, for returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, unemployment is shockingly above 12 percent.
Congress must put aside the partisanship, put aside the thirst for setting up an electoral victory 12 months from now, and focus on its responsibility to help those who have sacrificed so much for our nation. Congress could make a difference by helping to lower the unemployment rate for veterans. I'm promoting legislation to make it happen. Here's how we can do it:
* Increase the maximum tax credit available to employers who hire unemployed veterans (American Jobs Act)
* Establish a Department of Defense task force to maximize the career-readiness of servicemembers (American Jobs Act)
* Help military medics transition to physician assistants (American Jobs Act)
* Provide incentives to federal agencies to hire separating servicemembers (Hiring Heroes Act)
* Allow servicemembers to begin the federal employment hiring process prior to separation (Hiring Heroes Act)
* Expand a rehabilitation and vocational program for severely wounded members of the Armed Forces (Hiring Heroes Act)
* Provide grants to nonprofit organizations that provide mentorship and job training for veterans (Hiring Heroes Act)
These two measures, the American Jobs Act, H.R. 12, and the Hiring Heroes Act, H.R. 1941, would help veterans obtain the skills they need to be more competitive in the job market. Our veterans have fulfilled their duty. It's now time for Congress to do its part.
Gary L. Ackerman