Are veterans returning home from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan getting a fair shake? Two U.S. senators from New York say no. YNN's Bill Carey says the two came to Syracuse to argue for a new legislative effort to offer the vets a helping hand.
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- For the more than two-and-a-half million Americans who have served in the past decade in Afghanistan and Iraq, it is a new battlefield. They are fighting to find a way back into civilian life.
“A lot of daily talk shows like to drive viewership by portraying us as damaged. And we're not. We're not damaged,” retired Air Force Captain Christine Gentry said.
In a rare joint appearance in Syracuse, Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand say they want action by Congress to change the outlook for those who did the nation's bidding overseas.
Schumer said, “The jobless rate for veterans coming home is 50 percent higher than the national average. Our veterans who have served us, risked their lives, been through it all, have a higher unemployment rate than other citizens. That is unacceptable.”
The proposals, being set forth by New York's two U.S. senators, cover a host of issues ranging from the transition back to civilian life, through education at the nation's colleges and back into the workforce itself.
The first goal is to make transitional services available in more locations, so that vets aren't forced to travel long distances to military bases. There are also calls for closer scrutiny of education programs offered to vets, to make sure they meet acceptable standards. But the strongest demand by the senators’ deal with credit given for skills learned while in the military. Skills the veterans say are often not taken into account.
“So if they wanted to continue to be an electrician, after they retired, they would have to start as an entry level apprentice and spend all the money and the time to rebuild their certifications,” Gentry said.
“When our vets learn a certain set of skills while serving abroad, we want to translate that to the certification processes that the federal government requires. So, instead of spending a lot of time retraining our vets, they'd be able to receive a federal license if it's determined their military experience is enough to fulfill these requirements,” Gillibrand said.
The senators say the veterans and their families have made serious sacrifices for their country. Now, they say, it's time for the country to honor its commitment to them.