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Ms. KLOBUCHAR. Mr. President, I am here to talk about the important Veterans Job Corps Act of 2012 that is on the floor of the Senate. But I did wish to first express my thoughts, as so many of my colleagues have done on both sides of the aisle, that I strongly condemn the attacks in Egypt and Libya. I have been deeply saddened by the death of our Ambassador there as well as several other American citizens, and I join all Americas in not only condemning these attacks but also in sending my prayers and thoughts to the families of those killed by those senseless and horrific acts of violence.
On to the Veterans Corps Job Act. As we all know, as we have seen by this horrific violence and by what we have seen overseas and in the Mideast, our troops face that every single day when they are there, as do our diplomats. They face that kind of threat. When they come home to this country, we must treat them with great dignity and respect.
I have always believed that when we ask our young men and women to fight in defense of our Nation, we make a promise that we will give them the resources they need to complete their mission. We also promise to take care of them when they come home to this country. When they signed up to serve, there was no waiting line, and when they come home to the United States of America and they need a job or they need health care or need an education, there should never be a waiting line.
As a Senator from Minnesota, fighting for our veterans has been a major focus. While we do not have an Active-Duty base, we have the fifth largest National Guard in the country. Given that our population is only 22nd in the country, we can see we have a lot of people who want to serve our country and sign up to serve on the frontline. We have worked to cut through the redtape and streamline credentialing to help servicemembers transition their military skills into good-paying jobs at home. To give just one example, right now returning paramedics are too often unable to count the medical training they receive in the military toward receiving a license to become a civilian emergency medical technician.
That is why I introduced the Veterans to Paramedics Act to fix that problem by encouraging States to give paramedics credit for the medical training they have already received in the military. Not only does this help our veterans, it also helps relieve the shortage of emergency medical personnel, especially in our rural areas, where we have seen those shortages.
With commonsense solutions such as these, we cannot only fulfill our commitment to our veterans but we can also help lift our economy and make sure people who have the skills fill the jobs we have available. This is what the Veterans Job Corps Act is all about, fulfilling our promise to our veterans, ensuring training and the opportunities they need to find good-paying jobs and strengthening our Nation in the process.
To list just a few of the important provisions in this bill, first, the Veterans Jobs Corps Act gives veterans a new opportunity to serve and protect America by granting them prioritized placement in first responder positions such as police, firefighters, and emergency medical technicians.
Second, this bill would create conservation and resource management jobs for veterans, enlisting their help in building a stronger and more beautiful America through the restoration of our forests, parks, coasts, and public lands.
Third, the Veterans Jobs Corps Act would establish a pilot program to provide veterans with access to the Internet and computers to assist in job searches, a key bipartisan provision first introduced by my colleagues across the aisle.
Fourth, the Veterans Jobs Corps Act would especially help rural veterans find employment by granting them greater access to career specialists who can help them write résumés, prepare for interviews, and find jobs. We know all too often the amazing experience and leadership experience they have had overseas fighting for our country does not always translate the terms and the words and the ways described by the résumé into truly explaining what it is to a potential employer. That is why this skill training is so important.
This would also allow eligible veterans and spouses to enroll in the military's innovative Transition Assistance Program at sites outside military installations so they can relocate or return home in pursuit of job opportunities. This is a key benefit in my State of Minnesota, as I noted, which is very rural and also has no military bases.
The fact is, our returning veterans have battle-tested skills that are available to employers in all kinds of fields. This is something companies in my State have recognized. In fact, our business community, small and large, is already leading the way in reaching out to servicemembers before they have even begun the process of transitioning home. In April of this year, when Minnesota's 34th Infantry Division, known as the Red Bulls, was still deployed in Kuwait, representatives from several major companies in Minnesota actually flew into Kuwait to help the soldiers spruce up their résumés and prepare them for job interviews. All across Minnesota, large and small companies are targeting their recruitment efforts on returning servicemembers. This is the type of initiative we need.
In recent months, the unemployment rate for Minnesota veterans who have served since 9/11 has hit nearly 23 percent, almost double the national average for veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan war. An unemployment rate that high among the men and women who have served and sacrificed for our Nation is unacceptable, especially when our State's unemployment rate is, in fact, at 5.8 percent.
I truly believe that with initiatives such as those launched by private sector companies in our State, with training programs such as those created by this critical legislation, we are going to turn this situation around. That is why I am calling on all my colleagues to support the Veterans Jobs Corps Act. This important bill, which is fully paid for, goes a long way in providing our returning veterans the leg up they need in transitioning to the civilian workforce.
Minnesota has always been a State that understands the debt we owe to men and women who have served and sacrificed for us. I call on all my colleagues to vote for this bill and to take a step toward fulfilling that debt. This is the least we can do for the people who have fought and died to protect our values, freedoms, democracy, and human rights.
I yield the floor, and I suggest the absence of a quorum.
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