Published December 27, 2011
Thousands of American troops are returning home from overseas. Those whose military service is ending will be entering the civilian job market at a time when employment is tough for anyone to find.
"Our troops are coming home and we need to be ready," Sen. Michael Bennet says. He has proposed legislation to create a National Veterans Foundation that would operate much like the National Parks Foundation already does.
"Rather than creating a new bureaucracy or entity to take the place of existing organizations supporting veterans, the foundation would better utilize the public and private resources that already exist at no cost to the taxpayer," according to the Colo. Democrat.
"The unemployment rate for post-9/11 veterans in 2010 was 11.5 percent and for young veterans, 18 to 24 years old, it even spiked to 21.1 percent." And he adds, "Recent estimates indicate that veterans comprise about one quarter of the total adult homeless population."
A new foundation would not replace the many existing organizations that already offer help to veterans. Rather, it would create a kind of clearinghouse of information to make it easier for veterans to find help that already exists.
"Without this type of collaboration," Bennet says, "in some communities, veterans can fall through the cracks in the systems that support them."
Bennet says a working model for the foundation already exists in Colorado Springs, a city home to five major military installations. Retired Air Force Major Gen. G. Wesley Clark (not to be confused with retired U.S. Army General Wesley K. Clark who ran for President in 2004) says the Colorado Springs region is a community that understands the needs of America's veterans.
"Well I think it's important to understand up front that in the United States approximately only 1 percent (of the population) have served in the military. This community we have probably 25 percent who have served or are still serving in the military."
The Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments recently created a web-based Network of Care.
Sallie Clark, who chairs the PPACG, says the Network of Care gives veterans and their families in the area the ability, "To look in one place to get whatever service they need. Whether that's employment, whether that's dealing with mental health issues, whether that's working through family challenges when they come back from overseas."
Charlotte Nal, whose husband David is a 1st Sgt. in the Army, says the site is invaluable for the area's veterans as well as the families of those still serving.
"I think a national foundation would be excellent, especially for someone who can't have access to the site that's accessible here. It could be very important for them."
Bennet's office says several Republicans are considering whether to cosponsor his bill to create the foundation, which would also work to educate the public about the need to provide service to those who have already served us.