By Natalia Castro
The House of Representatives is putting veterans back to work across the country. The House has nearly unanimously passed legislation to assist veterans in returning to work through the Brave Act and the Hire Vets Act, both assisting veterans who returned from war to a struggling economy and disastrous social climate.
First, the Hire Vets Act introduces a medallion program which rewards employers that “recruit, employ, and retain veterans; and provide community and charitable services supporting the veteran community.”
Similarly, the Brave Act authorizes “the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), in awarding a contract for the procurement of goods or services, to give preference to offerors based on the percentage of the offeror’s full-time employees who are veterans.”
The Brave Act passed unanimously in House and the Hire Vets Act passed with only one no vote, clearly veterans are the place where Democrats and Republicans can come together and now it is needed more than ever.
While veteran employment has been up in recent years, veterans still have an exceedingly difficult time finding jobs. Returning home from wars in the Middle East to a nation experiencing a dramatically slow economic recovery has caused more than half of all veterans to leave the labor force.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics found in March 2016 that veterans with no disabilities only reach 51.2 percent labor force participation, leaving nearly half of all returning veterans to live without work. This strikes in at 11 percent below the national labor force participation rate, leaving those who fought for our country less likely to reenter society as productive members of our workforce than every day Americans.
Our veterans have been forced to enter the Obama economy. Despite claims that the recession ended in 2009, annual growth the past decade has been the weakest ever on record and has consistently underwhelmed or worried economists. Obama was simply unable to get Americans back to work, and thus, our veterans have been pushed out of the system.
Finally, the Brave Act and the Hire Vets Act provide an avenue for veterans to reenter the labor force and employers are incentivized to hire these American heroes.
While the bipartisan support has been heralded as a victory for the House, they are not done fighting for veterans’ well being. Reform to the veterans’ primary health care system, the Department of Veterans Affairs itself is also necessary but much less likely to get such bipartisan praise.
The Charleston Post and Courier explained that at the nomination for VA Secretary Dr. David Shulkin, “Senators at his nomination hearing expressed confidence that he can do the job, and welcomed his statement that he will seek ‘major reform’ at the troubled department with the help of new legislation from Congress.”
But while Senate Republicans might be willing to rally behind VA Reform, Democrats have consistently ignored the need for better health care for our veterans.
A lack of decent care for veterans only means more of the people who fought for our country being left outside an already struggling economy. Republicans in the House have begun remedying the problem, now the Senate must rally behind the same effort.
Natalia Castro is a contributing editor at Americans for Limited Government.