EXPRESSING SENSE OF HOUSE REGARDING HIRING OF MEMBERS OF ARMED FORCES -- (Extensions of Remarks - December 08, 2006)
* Mr. HOLT. Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the sentiment that motivated the gentleman from California, Mr. HUNTER, to offer this resolution. I agree with him that our Government must set the example when we choose to exhort employers to hire veterans. That's why I was pleased that in July of this year, the House passed by voice vote a concurrent resolution I offered with Mr. BROWN of South Carolina that calls upon the President to establish a permanent national ``Hire a Veteran Week.''
* The purpose of our bipartisan bill is simple. On a yearly basis, the President would lead a week-long effort to remind employers--both government and private sector--of the importance and value of hiring veterans. According to the most recent U.S. Labor Department data, in August 2005, 20- to 24-year-old veterans had an unemployment rate of 18.7 percent compared with their nonveteran counterparts. For all of 2005, the annual rate was 15.6 percent for 20- to 24-year-old veterans compared with 8.7 percent for non-veterans in that age group. Women veterans also suffer higher rates of unemployment than nonveterans. The unemployment rate for women veterans aged 25-34 stands at 6.9 percent versus 6 percent for their civilian counterparts. More alarmingly, women veterans aged 45-54 have twice the rate of unemployment than their non-veteran counterparts--7.1 percent versus 3.3 percent.
* These aren't simply numbers; these are men and women who put on our country's uniform to protect each and every one of us. We can and must do more to help them find good-paying jobs that allow them to build a career and a life in the Nation they served and protected. That process should begin with a yearly reminder to all employers to actively seek out veterans as potential employees. I have been deeply disappointed that to date the Senate has not elected to follow the House's lead and pass my ``Hire a Veteran Week'' legislation. Should the Senate not pass this bill before the 109th Congress adjourns sine die, it will represent yet another failure of this Congress to meet the real needs of veterans.
* My colleague from California, Mr. HUNTER, is correct that Congress should take the lead and set the example when it comes to veterans' employment issues. That's why in 2005 I introduced the American Veterans Congressional Internship Program, H.R. 1242, a bipartisan bill that would allow each Member of Congress to hire a veteran as a paid intern for 1 year.
* The benefits of this bill are clear. House and Senate Members would be able to take advantage of the experience and can-do work ethic of veterans, while veterans would get the chance to directly influence policy decisions and contribute to legislation that will affect them and their fellow veterans. I regret the 109th Congress failed to act on this commonsense bill, and I intend to reintroduce it and push for its speedy passage in the 110th Congress.
* One thing we should all be able to agree on is that our outreach to veterans seeking jobs should be buttressed with concrete action by Congress to fund job training and placement programs, particularly for young veterans and women veterans.
* That we have a long way to go in meeting the employment and training needs of our veterans was made clear by John Rowan, the current president of Vietnam Veterans of America, in testimony he gave before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee on March 30 of this year. Mr. Rowan noted that:
In fact, there is no real national strategy to assist returning veterans, including National Guard and Reservists, who are unemployed or under-employed--and some 15 percent of our newest veterans have yet to find gainful employment. Similarly, there is no effective mechanism in place for enforcing veterans' preference, and we have an Administration that appeals a case against a disabled veteran who had finally won his case before the Merit System Protection Board pursuant to The Veterans Employment Opportunities Act of 1998.
It is imperative that re-education and work skills upgrades, including selfemployment, be made a priority by those agencies of government that provide these services, especially considering the battalions of seriously and permanently disabled veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq.
* This indictment of our current federal efforts on behalf of veterans seeking employment is a wake up call. I hope that when the 110th Congress convenes in January 2007, my colleagues will join me in helping create a national strategy to help returning veterans get the job training and employment opportunities they've earned for their service to America.