Washington - U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) spoke today on the Senate floor in support of legislation to help New Jersey's veterans get back to work. The "VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011," of which Menendez is a co-sponsor, combines components in the President's American Jobs Act and additional initiatives to boost employment opportunities for veterans. In New Jersey, unemployment among veterans stands at 12 percent.
Specifically, VOW would provide tax credits to incentivize private companies to hire veterans and expand training and transition resources to ensure veterans have the skills they need to access employment opportunities back in their communities.
Senator Menendez believes a grateful nation not only goes to a Veterans' Day observance or marches in a Memorial Day parade, as we should-a grateful nation shows its gratitude in the health care we provide our veterans, in how we how we take care of their disabilities, and how we take care of their survivors, for those who make the ultimate sacrifice. That's why he fought for legislation to create a new GI bill that expands educational assistance to those who have served on active duty since 9/11. He also helped pass legislation to increase funding for veterans health care and for a process to deliver timely, predictable funding for the VA health care system, ensuring resources will be there to care for our veterans.
REMARKS AS PREPARED FOR DELIVERY
Mr. President, this Friday we will celebrate Veterans Day and, this year, we are also celebrating Military Families Month. It is the time to recommit ourselves to helping every military family as the First Lady and Dr. Jill Biden are doing with a program called Joining Forces - to address the unique needs of those who serve - and the needs of their families. We as a Congress and as a nation need to do exactly that - we need to reach across the aisle, we need to put aside our differences and join forces. We need to help businesses help veterans and their spouses build careers. We need to make sure that our schools are doing all they can to help military kids. We need to promote community involvement by asking all of us to do what we can to help military families in our local communities. But there is more we can - and should do -- to honor our heroes.
Honoring our heroes means providing jobs, job training, and every job opportunity possible to unemployed veterans in my state of New Jersey where we have over 450,000 veterans - 12 percent of them unemployed. That's why I am proud to be a co-sponsor of the VOW to Hire Heroes Act. Every year 160,000 active duty service members and 110,000 National Guardsmen and reservists come home. When they transition to civilian life and are looking for options to get back to work at home, they need to know someone will be there to help them, that businesses will help them start new careers or continue where they left off. We should be giving businesses a tax credit for hiring a returning veteran, and giving them more of a tax credit if they hire a wounded veteran. I'd like to see American businesses pledge to hire 100,000 veterans or their spouses by the end of next year. I don't think that's asking too much, do you? I don't think it's too much to ask Congress - both parties, without the politics, in a bipartisan effort -- to honor our veterans by passing a veterans' jobs bill the President can sign into law.
As we approach Veterans Day, as our last troops come home from Iraq, as our military presence around the world enters a post-Iraq era, we need to commit ourselves as a nation to helping every one of our men and women in uniform - particularly in these hard economic times. This year, with the unemployment rate for veterans at almost 12 percent nationally, as it is in New Jersey, with nearly 1 million unemployed veterans nationwide, I would hope that we could finally find bipartisan support for something that we should all be able to agree on and that's jobs for veterans...that's the VOW to Hire Heroes Act. Veterans cannot and should not have to wait for the help they deserve. No delays. No filibuster. No politics. Just a bill for the President to sign and help for our nation's veterans now. This is about fairness and keeping our promise to our veterans. I think we can always do better for our veterans and their families. Every veteran deserves better. Our duty to them is not just remembering their service, it's not just saying thank you one or two days a year,
It's delivering on the promise of a grateful nation every day. It means providing the health care and services veterans need when they come home, and helping them transition back into the workforce. Our brave men and women did not wait to sign up to serve this country, and they should not have to wait to get the benefits they have earned defending it. They should not have to come home only to stand on the unemployment line after putting themselves on the line serving this nation.
That's why, Mr. President, I'm proud to have cosponsored a good, solid, bipartisan jobs package to help our military men and women transition from their work defending our nation's freedoms to civilian work rebuilding our nation's economy. It would ensure that disabled veterans who have exhausted their unemployment benefits get the training and rehabilitation they need - the counseling they need, the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment benefits they need, and job assistance tailored to the 21st century job market. It establishes a competitive grant program for nonprofits that provide mentoring and training programs for vets. It allows employers to be paid for providing on-the-job training to veterans, and it would provide Returning Heroes and Wounded Warriors Work Opportunity Tax Credits for businesses that hire veterans -- and more for businesses that hire disabled vets. The credit for unemployed veterans expired at the end of 2010. This provision is essentially a Work Opportunity Tax Credit for hiring vets - a credit up to $2,400 for short-term unemployed and up to $5,600 for long-term unemployed... and an increased credit -- up to $9,600 -- for hiring unemployed, wounded veterans.
I fully support and believe in this bill. We made a promise to veterans, and it's a promise we must keep. While I believe reducing the deficit is a critical issue, we cannot and should not balance the budget on the backs of those who have served. Veterans are not bankrupting America; they're protecting it - and it's not veterans' programs, health care, or services that should be cut. I have said before and I will say it again: A grateful nation not only honors its heroes once a year on Veterans Day , but it better be able to look every veteran in the eye when he or she comes home and say - "we meant what we said, we kept our promise."And we must be prepared to deliver on that promise. I certainly am. I come to this chamber today on behalf of every New Jerseyan to say to every man and woman who has served in uniform and the more than 450,000 veterans in New Jersey: We will keep working for fairness for every veteran and their families. There will always be political obstacles in our way, but we will fight the good fight to keep our promise to you as you have served us. Be assured, you have the respect and thanks of a grateful nation - for the sacrifices you and your families have made. May God bless our troops. And may God bless America. With that, Mr. President, I yield the floor.