Former governor and U.S. Senate candidate Tim Kaine met with veterans and military families today in Lynchburg to discuss his approach to creating jobs, strengthening our economy, and restoring fiscal responsibility while avoiding damaging cuts that would jeopardize our national security and economic recovery. Kaine shared his strategies to reduce disproportionately high unemployment among young veterans, fulfill obligations the country has made to those who have served, improve civilian credentialing for skills gained during service, and support military members and their families during their service and transition to civilian life.
"Right now we have a situation where veterans, especially Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, have a higher unemployment rate than the national average. That's a real indictment of us," said Kaine. "We're doing something wrong if our veterans are not able to get traction in the civilian workforce. I'm really focused on workforce issues as they affect our active duty, our reserve, and our veterans. We need to elevate our military as a talent pool. It's millions of people with skills and leadership training and we ought to be using these skills the right way during active duty and after."
During the discussion, Kaine emphasized the need to fulfill promises made to our veterans and take a balanced approach to deficit reduction that allows for key investments in veterans' health care and job training programs. He also spoke about the need for Congressional leaders to come together and pass a compromise that addresses our fiscal challenges while avoiding the looming sequestration cuts that will negatively impact Virginia's military assets. Kaine contrasted his approach with the "all cuts" approach put forward by his opponent, George Allen, which would adversely affect services for veterans, members of our military and their families, and Virginia's Department of Defense civilian employees and military contractors.
"I firmly believe there is a right way and a wrong way to solve our fiscal challenges," said Kaine. "My opponent believes that it's all about cuts. I know something about cuts because I am the only living governor to leave office with a smaller general fund budget than the one I started with. But if you're only making cuts you are making a mistake. If you just cut you would hurt the Veterans Affairs budget. You would hurt Pell grants and other educational priorities. Instead, you need a balanced approach of both cuts and investments."
As Virginia's senator, Kaine will work to reduce the veteran unemployment rate and ease the transition to civilian life by encouraging the Department of Defense to provide corresponding civilian credentials for skills gained during service. He has pledged to work with members of both parties to carry on Senator Jim Webb's legacy of representing the interests of Virginia's military installations, active duty service members, and veterans.
As governor, Kaine helped secure funding for in-state college tuition for the children of military personnel who are stationed in Virginia and expanded treatment for veterans' mental health through the Virginia Wounded Warrior Program. Even while making more than $5 billion in spending cuts during a deep national recession he prioritized services that support our military men and women.
Since the beginning of the year, Kaine has held more than 70 economic roundtable discussions across the state, including ten with Virginia veterans and military families.