By Ramsey Cox
“This bill says all good ideas are welcome because our veterans need all the help they can get and it’s fully paid for in a bipartisan way,” Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said in a floor speech Tuesday. “Our veterans don’t ask for a lot ... but our veterans shouldn’t have to ask, we should know how to provide for them.”
Debate on the bill will continue as leadership works toward an agreement on amendments. If they agree, a roll-call vote will likely happen later this week.
“Veterans returning home from across the country are watching us and they certainly don’t have time for politics to block they’re ability to get a job,” Murray said.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) voted against the bill.
Last month, the bill was introduced after the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that there were more than 225,000 unemployed post-9/11 veterans, who would be the benefactors of the legislation.
Murray and Sen. Bill Nelson led the effort for the legislation. Both pointed out before the vote that returning service members have valuable job skills, such as leadership ability, discipline, technical skills, teamwork and the ability to perform under pressure, because of their military training.
“When you met some of these folks young and old, they’ve already done the tough, tough job and then they come home and have tough times as well,” Nelson said. “They are extremely skilled. We need to give them as many opportunities to succeed when they get back here in America. It’s up to us to stand by our soldiers.”
The $1 billion bill establishes a Veterans Job Corps for five years. The bill would set up a pilot program that would allow veterans to search for jobs on a new website, and create “one-stop job centers” where they could receive help using the site, if needed.
The bill also establishes a Transition Assistance Program for veterans and their spouses in a few states with the highest levels of unemployed vets.
Some veterans receive on-the-job training while in service, but that doesn’t always transfer over into civilian life. S. 3457 would make it easier for veterans to get job certifications and licenses in states by counting military training that’s relevant to become certified as a nursing assistant, or to get a commercial driver's license or an EMT license.
Democratic Sens. Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Jeff Merkley (Ore.), Charles Schumer (N.Y.), Debbie Stabenow (Mich.) and Ron Wyden (Ore.) also co-sponsored the bill.