Archive | November, 2012

How to REALLY Hug A Veteran!

11 Nov

There are so many warm, heartfelt wishes going out to all of our veterans today, as we celebrate our soldiers past and present. Many of you know by now I’m a doer…I see a poster of a returning Marine hugging his little daughter and I tear up a bit, just like you do, but then I ask myself, “What can I DO?”

Our veterans need so much. They perform sometimes unspeakable jobs, but the legacy of that job is far from over once they return home. Calling them heroes and raising flags in their honor a few days a year is nice, but it isn’t enough. If, like me, you feel helpless, there are several organizations you can find to donate money or time or resources.

And if you’d like to participate in a more lasting effort to help our veterans, here’s another idea.

In September 2012, Senate Republicans filibustered the Veterans Jobs Bill, which would have provided $1 billion over the next five years in veteran’s services and to help them find work upon returning home. In defense of those Republicans who blocked it (as there were many who voted in favor of it), it may have been a bill that was hastily designed more for political purposes than for actual aid to veterans. There is reasonable argument to suggest that. Also, the funding for this bill was not clear, and exceeded the spending amount set by a former piece of legislation, thereby making this bill’s billion dollar amount unconstitutional. So technically, they did have grounds to block this bill, even though you’d think most people would agree that if ANYONE was going to be the recipient of excessive spending, our veterans should be at the top of the list.

But there’s good news…a portion of that bill survived. It’s called the Hire At Home Act. (H.R. #4115) It focuses on one specific problem faced by many of our returning vets – that the military training they receive does not often translate to civilian requirements for employment. You may have driven trucks or tanks in the military, but you do not have the licensing required for civilian employment. You may have saved a few hundred lives, caring for wounded personnel in substandard conditions, but you can’t get a job here as a paramedic without going through two years of redundant (and expensive) training, because you don’t have the required paperwork. Somehow there hasn’t been enough communication between the Department of Defense and the states when it comes to finding a way to translate military experience to civilian job requirements.

The Hire At Home Act requires states, if they want certain federal funding, to show proof that they are, basically, fixing this problem. That they are working with the DOD, and actively putting veterans to work by resolving this technical issue. It isn’t an all-encompassing giant leap for veterans, but it is a solid start; a workable, reasonable solution that will help our veterans find work when they return home. It is currently sitting in committee, and has been swept aside for a couple months while the election took front page news, but it is still there, and needs our support.

So what can you do? Contact your representatives. Go to their websites, and see if you can find any information about whether they sponsored/voted for/support H.R. #4115. Or, just email them or call and ask them. Tell them you want this bill out of committee, and voted upon in the next session of Congress. Tell them you support it. Get your friends to do the same.

If this is unfamiliar to you, take heart! It’s really easy to do! Start by googling the Hire At Home Act, and read a few links to understand what it’s about, to decide if you support it. Then, if you do, and want to contact your representatives, but you don’t know how…well, google that too. Type in the search box something like, “Who are my state representatives?” or “How do I contact my representatives?” The answers are easy to find, and easy to use. If you can share a picture on facebook, you have all the skills necessary to email your rep.

And if you’re a little daunted by what to say, or are uncomfortable writing, you are welcome to copy and paste the following into your email text:

I support H.R. #4115. Our returning veterans deserve all the support we can give them. At the very least, it is OUR duty to the people who serve our country to make sure any obstacles to civilian employment are removed. I am your constituent, and I am asking you to get this bill back in front of Congress, and I am asking you to either support it, or explain your reasons for non-support. Thank you.

Those are my practical thoughts for today, folks. Go hug a veteran…then take a few minutes to help change their lives. Peace…