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VETERANS JOBS CORPS ACT OF 2012
Mr. MANCHIN. Mr. President, first of all, I wish to thank my colleague and good friend from the State of Washington, Senator Cantwell, for honoring and recognizing a true American hero. We have had so many of them, and we still have so many, and I wish to thank her for that.
As the country mourns for those we have lost in Libya and those who remain in harm's way to keep us all safe, we are reminded of the sacred debt we owe the men and women who put their lives on the line for us every day. No matter the generation and no matter the war, America's soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen are always tough, always determined, and always victorious. Even when we have asked the impossible of them, they have served us well.
However, how well have we served them? How well have we kept our sacred promise to care for those who, as Abraham Lincoln said, ``have borne the battle'' for us and for this great country of ours?
The Veterans Jobs Corps Act is an opportunity to make good on that promise, but it is more than an opportunity; it is an obligation. It is also a duty and, most importantly, it is a privilege. It is one of the best welcome home celebrations we could give the men and women in our armed forces, as well as the 9/11 generation of their families--more than 1 million military spouses and 2 million children, many of whom have lived their entire lives in a nation at war.
Today, one of our Nation's great challenges is a new generation of veterans coming home to a weak economy. Those veterans are disciplined and have some of the best training in the world, but now those veterans who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan now fight for jobs.
The unemployment rate for these post-9/11 veterans is 10.9 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics this past August, and that is well above the national average. That is unacceptable. That is why every day in the U.S. Senate I will stand with our veterans--as I know the Acting President pro tempore does and all of our colleagues--24/7. That is why one of my top priorities in the Senate has been--and will continue to be--to make sure there are good jobs for our returning veterans.
I am particularly pleased that the Veterans Jobs Corps Act includes provisions to provide veterans with access to the Internet and computers to assist them in their job searches. This is important because, as we all know, today's veterans are tech-savvy.
I have talked with Labor Secretary Solis about establishing an Internet portal for job seekers, and I will be working closely with the Secretary to make sure this provision of the act is up and running as quickly as possible.
I do, however, suggest that we amend the legislation so it is abundantly clear that employment opportunities available through the Veterans Jobs Corps are maintained on one--only one--Internet portal--a simple, one-stop center for job seekers. In this technology age, we need a central clearinghouse to match veterans with available jobs.
I also want to propose two more amendments to the Veterans Jobs Corps Act that might have been overlooked.
First, as written, the legislation addresses commercial driver's licenses, CDLs, as we know them, but not construction equipment or heavy equipment operating licenses. I suggest we amend the legislation to include reciprocity on licensure, which, clearly, will make it easier for veterans to get jobs operating this heavy equipment at construction and mining sites. They have been doing these jobs already every day in the military. There is no reason why they should have to face a complete new hurdle to get a new license for the same work here at home.
And second, I would like the legislation to encourage Members of Congress to lead by example and hire qualified veterans for openings in all of our offices both here and at home. I proudly display the ``I Hire Veterans'' logo in my office, and many of our colleagues do. I have made this a commitment to every veteran: that we will do all we can to put them back into employment. But we must all lead by example.
As members of the Veterans Jobs Caucus, we must do everything we can to end the unemployment crisis our veterans are facing. In fact, while I was in my great State of West Virginia during our most recent State work period, I had the privilege of working with a private sector partner, DuPont--International DuPont--which has joined the ``I Hire Veterans'' project. They have committed that for all of their new hires, at least 10 percent will be veterans. That is tremendous. This project is our new yellow ribbon and, as I have always said, if you want to really help a vet, hire a vet and then do business with folks who also hire vets.
I have seen firsthand the positive impact veterans have on our economy. Leadership, teamwork, commitment, and trust--these are the hallmark qualities of all of our military heroes. And these are skills every American business--big or small--needs and can use today.
Like every generation of warriors, today's young veterans make great hires. Their resumes include maturity, crisis management skills, and loyalty, and those resumes should be at the top of every stack of a person looking for a good employee today.
Patriotism has many requirements and one requirement is to keep faith with those who have worn the uniform of the United States of America. It is one thing to recall President Lincoln's immortal words and the commitment to those who have ``borne the battle.'' It is another to live by them--to always stand with the men and women who have kept this Nation safe and free.
They answered the call. We must do so as well. And I am so proud to support this legislation.
Three million veterans have returned from military service over the past 10 years, and another 1 million are expected to return to civilian life over the next 5 years.
Can we rise to the challenge, the way our warriors did in Iraq and Afghanistan? Can we make sure our economy is ready for them? Of course we can. And just as importantly, we must.
So I ask all of my colleagues--Democrats and Republicans--to please vote ``yes'' on this most important piece of legislation.
I yield the floor.
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