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Uploaded on Nov 10, 2011
On Veterans Day we honor the 24 million Americans who, at one time or another, have answered the call to serve their country in uniform. Also today, we as a nation must renew our commitment to these American warriors.
For ten years, thousands of our nation's veterans have shown uncommon courage and resilience during multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. We are lucky to live in a country where brave men and women are willing to risk everything so that we can be safe.
They fight for each other, for us, and for the ideals that bind us together as one people—principles like freedom, equal justice and democratic government.
While we rally to salute Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines when they are deployed, unfortunately, America is failing to provide them with the support they need and deserve when they return home.
Our nation's newest veterans often grapple with staggering unemployment levels, homelessness, and combat-related disabilities. Veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom face an unemployment rate of 12.1 percent—more than 3 points above our national average.
That means, right now, at least 240,000 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan are struggling to find a job somewhere. In the Guard and Reserves, the numbers are even worse, with unemployment as high as 20 percent.
It is absolutely unacceptable for a veteran to come home after a deployment, where he or she served at great personal sacrifice, and have to battle with unemployment or homelessness. The adversity facing our veterans is a call to action for our country.
Last February, I introduced the Hire A Hero tax credit with Senator Kay Hagan of North Carolina, which expands a tax credit for small businesses who hire returning veterans, including members of the National Guard and Reserves. President Obama also included a similar provision in his American jobs Act.
This bill had been trapped in a divided Senate all year until Thursday—the day before Veterans day—when the Senate finally broke through the gridlock and passed this legislation on a bipartisan basis.
In addition to the tax incentives, the bill we passed takes new steps that will help our veterans find jobs. It will revamp the old Transition Assistance Program so our armed services can better prepare active duty members to transition from the military to the civilian workplace.
The progress we've made in the last week is about more than our veterans. It is also about their families—the spouses, children, parents and others who have shared in the sacrifice of their loved one serving our country.
Still, there's more we can and should do. Our veterans should come home to our thanks, our gratitude, and our assistance—not an unemployment check.
As America celebrates and honors the contribution of our veterans, we must come together as a nation and take action to help those who have served.
For me and my family, thank you to all the Veterans. May God bless you.