ICYMI: Denham Op-ed: Keeping our promise to protect and support our veterans
WASHINGTON, DC — U.S. Representative Jeff Denham (R-Turlock) authored the following op-ed column on the critical need to provide care and support for our returning heroes, which appeared in The Hill newspaper’s Congress Blog on Veterans Day, November 11, 2012:
Every year, our country comes together on Veterans Day to honor the brave men and women of our armed services who risk their lives daily to protect our freedoms and to remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice defending our country. America would not be what it is today without the heroism and sacrifice of those individuals bravely serving our country. Our service men and women risk their lives to protect our country and it's our duty as leaders in Washington and Sacramento to ensure America keeps its promises to our veterans.
Along with celebrating their heroism, it is critical that we provide care and support for our returning heroes. That is why I was pleased to see Democrats and Republicans join together with Governor Brown to pass 18 bills that will improve access to education and increase employment opportunities for veterans in California. Particularly important was legislation expediting professional licenses for servicemen, allowing our veterans to put their skills to work right away.
One of my greatest privileges as a freshman U.S. Representative is the opportunity to address the challenge of veteran unemployment on the national level. As a veteran myself, I understand the hurdles that many of our servicemen and women face when transitioning out of the military. I have supported legislation in Congress to ensure our veterans and current service members and their families have the care and resources they need. With over 800,000 veterans currently looking for work nationwide and almost a quarter of them post-9/11 veterans, we have a duty as elected officials to ensure that every veteran, including those returning home from active duty, have employment opportunities available here at home.
To help combat the unacceptably high unemployment rate amongst America’s veterans, I introduced H.R. 4155, the Veteran Skills to Jobs Act. This job-creating measure cuts through bureaucratic obstacles and streamlines the federal certification process to make it easier for veterans to utilize the skills they acquired in the military to find work at home. The Department of Defense spends over $1 billion annually on training our service men and women with job skills that directly translate into the skills needed in the private sector workforce. It’s purely common sense for our highly-skilled veterans to utilize their military training to get back to work right away.
I was proud to work with my colleagues in the House and Senate on both sides of the aisle to get this job-creating bill passed and signed into law by the president on July 23, 2012. Helping our returning veterans find jobs is not the concern of one party or one body of Congress, and this accomplishment is proof of what we can accomplish when we work together to ensure our veterans find jobs which give them the opportunity to utilize their skills, support their families and have passion for their work.
To further these efforts, I was proud to join my colleagues to form the bipartisan, bicameral Congressional Veterans Jobs Caucus, which will work to raise awareness and decrease the unemployment rate of the nation’s 857,000 veterans currently seeking employment. It’s our greatest duty as leaders in Washington to uphold our commitment to our veterans, and we invite members of the public – especially business owners – to join us in this important mission.
I’ve also introduced legislation this Congress that will provide much needed support for our disabled veterans and their families by extending military commissary and exchange store privileges to our wounded warriors who are currently ineligible to receive these benefits. Our country has made a promise to those willing to put their lives on the line for our freedom, and during these tough budgetary times, every member of Congress needs to stand together to uphold that promise to all of our veterans.
We must always remember the sacrifice made by these brave individuals who volunteer to protect our freedoms, and in turn, we owe it to them to honor and preserve the rights, protections and benefits they deserve. This Veterans Day, I encourage all Americans across the nation to take the time to thank a veteran for their sacrifice, and also take a moment to remember our fallen service members and the extraordinary sacrifice they have made for our great country.
Denham is a member of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee.