November 7, 2011
Washington, D.C. – Nevada Senator Harry Reid made the following remarks today on the Senate floor regarding the VOW to Hire Heroes Act. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
Every man or woman who puts on the uniform of the United States Armed Forces takes a solemn oath to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies.
With that oath comes an obligation: to defend the freedoms for which this noble nation stands and upon which it was founded, without regard to the personal price.
And for this service, the United States makes a promise to our soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen in return.
That promise isn’t about flag waving or yellow ribbons. And it lasts long after the parades and holidays are over, through every day of every year of their lives.
It is a guarantee that the American Dream for which every service member fights -- and for which many of their comrades have died -- will be waiting for them when they come home.
But since September 11, 2001, this country has allowed that promise to lapse. Today, there are 240,000 unemployed veterans of the fight against global terrorism.
Among veterans who served since September 11, unemployment is 12.1 percent -- more than three percentage points higher than among the general population. Among the youngest veterans, those under 25, the unemployment rate was nearly 22 percent last year.
These young men and women volunteered to fight terrorism abroad, but their struggles didn’t end when they came home. Despite their service and experience, a quarter of a million post-9/11 veterans can’t find jobs in today’s dismal economy and rapidly-changing workforce.
It is time for this country to make good on its promise. As we pay tribute this week to the millions of Americans veterans who have faithfully served our flag, Democrats will introduce legislation to put those men and women back to work.
VOW to Hire Heroes will offer tax credits to companies who hire unemployed veterans or veterans who were discharged in the last five years. The legislation will give an additional tax credit to firms that hire unemployed veterans with service-related disabilities.
Disabled veterans will also be eligible for an additional year of vocational rehabilitation and employment benefits under the legislation.
The plan makes transition assistance -- including resume writing workshops and career counseling -- mandatory for all service members being discharged. Although our veterans are coming home with greater technical and leadership skills than ever before, those skills don’t always translate to a civilian resume. This program will bridge that gap.
Many federal agencies -- such as the VA and Homeland Security -- badly need employees with the unique skill veterans possess. This legislation will also make it possible for service members to apply for those jobs before they leave the military.
This will allow soldiers to transition from serving their country in uniform to serving in the civilian world without a gap in employment.
And to keep our promise to older veterans, the legislation will expand education and training opportunities at community colleges and technical schools for 100,000 unemployed veterans who served before September 11.
Democrats believe we owe it to the men and women who have fought for us abroad to fight for them at home.
VOW to Hire Heroes is our fourth attempt to pass common-sense legislation that puts Americans back to work and jump-starts our economy.
Senate Republicans unanimously opposed our last three jobs bills, although those bills had the support of a vast majority of Americans -- Republicans, Democrats and Independents alike. Meanwhile, Republicans have yet to propose a single idea of their own to create jobs.
Their obstruction has cost hundreds of thousands of teacher and first responder jobs. It has cost hundreds of thousands of construction jobs, and put reconstruction of our nation’s crumbling roads, bridges and runways on hold.
Now we will see whether Senate Republicans are willing to put jobs for veterans at risk as well. I certainly hope they are not.
I hope they will join us this week in supporting legislation that uses ideas originally proposed by Republicans and Democrats to put this nation’s veterans back to work without adding a penny to the deficit.
I believe every man and woman serving in the Senate today is a patriot. I know each and every one of us supports the members of the U.S. Armed Forces and is grateful to every veteran who has served.
This week we have the opportunity to express our gratitude and our patriotism with action.
So far, Republicans have stood firm against even the most reasonable plans to create millions of jobs for the sake of politics. But it is only a matter of time before they break and join Democrats in our efforts to create jobs and get the economy back on track.
As Veterans’ Day approaches, I urge my Republican colleagues to abandon partisanship and help us honor a commitment to this country’s heroes.