According to figures released this week by the Department of Labor, there are currently 3.4 million job openings in the United States. That high number begs the question – why are the 14 million unemployed Americans not able to fill these positions?
The biggest reason is many of these positions are in specialized fields.
As the economy has gotten worse, and unemployment has run rampant, just like non-veterans, America’s veterans have been affected too.
Today, nearly 1 million veterans are out of work. For veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns, unemployment is outpacing the national average at 12.1 percent. And overall, one in twelve veterans in America are unemployed.
Our older veterans face a changing job landscape where hard work was once rewarded, but now advanced skill sets are valued. New veterans need help to take the skills they learned on the battlefield into the workforce.
That is why, at the beginning of this year, the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs took action and started a pro-active approach to address the high rate of veteran unemployment. After talking to several Veterans Service Organizations about the best way to craft legislation to get our veterans back to work, I introduced the Veterans Opportunity to Work Act this summer, better known as the "VOW Act."
This legislation gets to the root of many of the employment problems our veterans face such as the inability to compete in today’s job market and issues surrounding a seamless transition from active duty to civilian life. It will do this by updating the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) to increase participation of transitioning active duty servicemembers into civilian life, as well as provide a broad training program for older veterans in high-demand job sectors.
In October, the legislation passed the U.S. House of Representatives with overwhelming bipartisan support in a final vote of 418-6. As with any piece of legislation that passes one chamber of Congress, we began negotiations with our colleagues in the Senate to bring forth a final bill.
Both sides worked with a common sense of purpose, and the result is the VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011.
In honor of Veterans Day, the VOW to Hire Heroes Act has been passed by the Senate.
As Americans honor our nation’s heroes Friday, we should take the time to focus on our shared obligation to support our veterans and set aside politics. This meaningful legislation will serve our veterans and position them for the 21st Century workforce. Through this process, and what is most important, our veterans won.
We provide benefits to veterans because they are earned through service and sacrifice. Only 1 percent of the population steps forward to defend our nation every day, and through the Department of Veterans Affairs, we strive to give those men and women the tools to be successful when they come home. Why do we stand up for veterans and their benefits? The answer is simple –it is the right thing to do.
We must not allow politics to get in front of meaningful legislation that will serve our veterans. And hopefully, the bipartisanship we have witnessed this week will not disappear after the holiday.
Polls show that the American public wants commonsense solutions from Congress – without smoke and mirror legislative gimmicks. That is what we were able to produce for America’s veterans.
It is my hope that with passage of the VOW to Hire Heroes Act, we can break the logjam of legislation in Washington and get our economy back on track and Americans back to work.
President Ronald Reagan reminded us in the 1980s when faced with a divided government, “There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn’t mind who gets the credit.” Those words could easily be the motto of our men and women in the U.S. Armed Forces.
Perhaps this Veterans Day that lesson in humility is what we should all take away from this national holiday as we reflect on our military’s 235 years of service.
Republican Jeff Miller represents Florida's 1st district in the U.S. House of Representatives. He serves as Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.