“WHAT YOU DO TO THE LEAST OF THESE” OUR VETERANS,By Louise Annarino,September 19,2012

20 Sep

“WHAT YOU DO TO THE LEAST OF THESE” OUR VETERANS; By Louise Annarino,September19,2012

Today was a day of further frustration as Republicans blocked passage of a veterans jobs bill. Democrats needed 60 votes but got only 58,including votes of 5 Republicans who joined them in attempting to override a point of order raised by Sen. Sessions (R-Ala).  Senator/Chairperson of the Veterans Affairs committee Patty Murray (D-Wash,) hoped an amendment she introduced which included a provision by Sen.Burr (R-NC) as a compromise to satisfy Republican objections could have gotten to a vote. “At every turn, we have sought compromise. But instead of meeting us halfway, we have been met with resistance,” Murray said. “Instead of saying yes to the nearly one million unemployed veterans, it seems some on the other side have spent the last week and a half seeking out any way to say no.” She warned that such Republican obstruction threatens every effort to aid veterans.

The $1 billion Veterans Jobs Corp Act would have paid for itself over 10 years. It would have created job-training and assistance to obtain work in targeted fields including police work,firefighting,national park conservation, historic preservation projects etc. The same persons who had no problem sending our young men and women to war, with no money budgeted to pay for those wars, objected on a budget point of order to aide the veterans of those wars. The deficit they decry was partially created by borrowing money to pay for those wars in order to avoid raising taxes and upsetting Grover Norquist. The same persons who raised no objection when passing Medicare Part D without funding the expansion to cover prescriptions, and who refused to include language to require bulk rates by pharmaceutical companies to reduce the cost of this unpaid mandate, refused to even consider a bill to put our unemployed veterans to  work.

Sen Tom Coburn (R-Ok) opposed it because it duplicated other efforts; Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky), because it did not include a provision to force Pakistan to free Dr. Shakil Afridi, the doctor who led the US to Osama bin Laden. While I appreciate Dr. Afridi’s help, I also appreciate the soldiers who were sent to Iraq and Afghanistan to find Bin Laden and destroy Al Qaeda. Our soldiers should not be held hostage by Sen. Paul.The hypocrisy is overwhelming.

One appreciates even more Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown’s unwavering support for America’s veterans. Brown was an original cosponsor of the VOW to Hire Heroes Act, a key provision of which is VRAP, which offers job retraining assistance to veterans; up to 99,000 veterans will receive retraining assistance through March 31,2014.

The veteran jobs bill was expected to create at least 20,000 jobs at a time when one in four veterans are unemployed. But, then, they are part of Mr. Romney’s 47%, so perhaps Republicans think they are merely unwilling to take care of themselves, and feel entitled to depend on their government, and the people, all of us, who sent them to war. Here’s a novel idea: THEY ARE ENTITLED.

The Center for American Progress has put together this list showing the unfortunate facts behind veterans’ homelessness:

50 percent: Rate at which veterans are more likely than other Americans to become homeless. The Obama administration has set a goal of ending veteran homelessness by 2015.

About 75,000: Number of veterans who are homeless on any given night, according to estimates from the Veterans Administration.

About 20,000: Number of veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who were homeless in the past five years according to the Veterans Administration.

5.5 percent: Percentage of homeless vets who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan in the overall homeless population, according to the Veterans Administration.

A Veteran Commits Suicide Every 80 Minutes, according to a Center for a New American Security Suicide report. And, according to armytimes.com. 1,868 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, in 2009 alone, made suicide attempts. Marine Corps veteran Jason Christiansen, 35, of St. Paul, Minn. watched his life unravel upon completing his service. He lost his job as an auto dealer in 2008, avoided debt collectors and fell into a serious depression, and considered suicide. Minnesota.publicradio.org reports. Should he be able to expect more from the nation he served at the risk of his life, over there and back here ?

Recent job initiatives by President Obama have helped veteran unemployment fall by six points over the past year. Between January 2010 and January 2011, veteran homelessness declined by 12 percentage points. Still, with wars winding down in Iraq and Afghanistan, those numbers could increase rapidly without government safeguards, according to the Center for American Progress.

Perhaps this explains why Republicans blocked this bill. They could not hand President Obama ANY success, even that of helping our veterans. The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America reacted with strength,dignity, and disappointment. “Once again, this Congress let partisan bickering stand in the way of putting thousands of America’s heroes back to work,“ said Paul Rieckhoff, the organization’s founder. “Lowering veteran unemployment is something both parties should be able to agree on – even in an election year.” It’s the least our veterans should be able to expect from us.

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