Today, as we honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country, we must recommit ourselves to providing economic opportunity for our brave veterans once they return home.
Each day in Washington, I work to make sure that our troops and veterans receive all the benefits they have earned - from first-rate health care at the VA, to an affordable college education, low interest loans to buy a home and good opportunities for a new job when they've returned home to their families. It's the least we can do to repay the debt we owe them.
But these days, when our troops return from Iraq and Afghanistan, so often they are coming home to a country far different than the one they left. Many of the businesses they once knew and worked at are gone. Jobs have disappeared by the millions and are only very slowly starting to return.
As a result, more than 1 in 5 veterans today are unemployed. It is simply unacceptable that these hardworking, devoted men and women, who have done their job for America abroad, cannot find a new job back home.
It is time to get serious about creating jobs for these brave men and women who are ready to work.
So last week, I was proud to announce the Veterans Employment Act of 2010 -- landmark legislation that takes a comprehensive approach to addressing the skyrocketing unemployment rate among veterans. I believe our veterans are uniquely qualified to succeed in the 21st century economy and this bill will help veterans translate their military skills to the workplace, assist veteran-owned small businesses and provide the training and education -- as well as increased opportunities -- our vets need to succeed at the jobs of tomorrow.
Specifically, this legislation:
· Establishes a Veteran Business Center Program within the Small Business Administration (SBA) to provide critical entrepreneurial training and counseling to veterans.
· Expands the Post-9/11 GI Bill to allow returning veterans to use the benefit for apprenticeship and worker training programs that will help them acquire the skills they need to find stable, family-wage jobs in their communities.
· Creates pilot programs to test ways transitioning service members can build on the technical skills learned in the military and better market those skills in the civilian workforce.
· Establishes a Veterans Conservation Corps Grant Program and a Veterans Energy/Green Jobs Grant Program to connect veterans with the green jobs market of the future.
Additionally, The Veterans Employment Act also takes steps to make current job assistance programs work better for veterans.
· Examines the expansion of the National Guard Employment Enhancement Project (NGEEP), which would provide transition assistance to National Guard members.
· Requires the Department of Defense and the Department of Labor Veterans Employment and Training Service to examine the Transition Assistance Program for active duty servicemembers and recommend how to update and upgrade the program to meet the needs of today's veterans.
New York has a long, proud tradition of answering the call of service. Our state is home to more than 1 million veterans, and over 60,000 servicemen and women serving today. All have answered a call above and beyond any other, and we owe them a debt of gratitude for their service and sacrifice.
As I said in my acceptance speech at the NYS Democratic convention last week, we have a moral obligation to provide for our veterans when they return home. This is about fairness and opportunity and that's why I'm committed, not just today, but every day, to make sure our veterans can provide for themselves and their families when they return home from serving their country.