On this Veterans Day, more than 190,000 of our brave men and women are currently fighting for our country in Afghanistan and Iraq. Going to war takes incredible courage, and each and every service member currently deployed is in our thoughts and prayers. All Americans appreciate their commitment to defending our freedoms.
We owe them more than just our gratitude though; we have an obligation to serve those who have volunteered to serve our country. The unfortunate reality is that here at home, there are about 185,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who are unemployed and looking for work. These veterans bravely served our country, and the skills they developed during their military service — from their strong work ethic and unwavering loyalty to their commitment toward achieving goals bigger than themselves — would be of great value to any business.
Many, however, have been caught in the turmoil of the current economic climate. As the United States climbs out of this recession, my goal has been to support efforts aimed at helping them obtain the additional skills needed to compete for today’s jobs.
Last year, Congress passed the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill, legislation that expanded educational benefits for military veterans who have served since Sept. 11, 2001. In August, military veterans throughout Middle Tennessee and across the United States started receiving benefits from the new G.I. Bill, which includes covering 100 percent of a four-year public undergraduate education.
I strongly supported this bill because it will allow an estimated 2 million veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars to return to the classroom and get the education they need and deserve without having to worry about costs. Not only does the new G.I. Bill cover tuition, but it also helps with books and housing expenses.
In addition to the new G.I. Bill, the U.S. House of Representatives recently passed the Veterans Retraining Act, which will further help veterans obtain the skills needed to get a new job. This legislation would authorize the U.S. Labor Department to pay monthly living and housing stipends to veterans enrolled in employment-training programs that teach skills in particular demand.
In Smyrna, the Department of Veterans Affairs recently announced its plans to open a new patient service call center to help serve veterans and 19 VA hospitals. This center is expected to create as many as 450 new jobs. Hiring will begin later this year, and the federal government will offer veterans special preference for these jobs, which will provide much needed job opportunities for veterans in our area.
As the current economic climate improves, I remain committed to ensuring that veterans are part of the recovery.
Congressman Bart Gordon represents Tennessee's 6th district in the U.S. House of Representatives.