The Reserve Officers Association was invited to participate in a roundtable discussion Wednesday morning with the Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee. The Committee, chaired by Senator Mark Begich (AK), brought together sixteen veterans’ services organizations (VSOs) for an open discussion on veterans’ issues. Also in attendance were sixteen other Senate Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (NV) and Chair of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Senator Patty Murray (WA).
First to testify was ROA’s executive director, Major General Andrew Davis, USMC (ret.) who addressed the issue of high levels of unemployment among members of the Guard and Reserve, who are facing unemployment numbers above those of the overall veteran community. He discussed how the VOW to Hiring Heroes Act of 2011 would help, but he also warned about concerns over hiring employers.
“I fear the unemployment rate is so high because employers are shying away from hiring potential employees who are serving in the Reserve Components,” shared Maj. Gen. Davis.
Maj. Gen. Davis’s comments spurred discussion of the unique employment issues facing the Guard and Reserve as opposed to their peers, i.e. veterans who are no longer affiliated and are no longer at risk of being called up.
Other associations brought up the challenges for returning veterans to transition back to civilian life. These challenges include education requirements, the need for mental health providers, the burdens on military families and survivors, and the limited services to those veterans and Reserve Component members who are remotely located.
Later in the meeting, Senator Tom Harkin (IA) recognized the Reserve Officers Association and other organizations for working with his office on the issue of for profit schools that are seeking veterans who qualify for education using the Post 9/11 GI bill. Sen. Harkin has been investigating the tactics used by some of the schools.
Earlier this fall, at a previous meeting with the Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee, ROA and other military and veterans service organizations urged the Senate leadership to pass a veterans’ jobs bill by this Veterans Day. Last week saw the successful passage in the Senate of the VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011, which provides tax incentives to employers who hire veterans and strengthens the Uniformed Services Employment and Re-Employment Rights Act.
“Such bipartisan action sets the example for further congressional actions needed on veteran employment,” said Maj. Gen. Davis. Employment issues for the Guard and Reserve are of profound importance to the Reserve Officers Association, and the opportunity to discuss them before members of the Senate leadership helps us to bring these issues to the forefront.