On Sunday, November 11, we recognized our nation’s veterans, the men and women who have given their time, risked their safety, and in some cases lost their lives in service to our country. Regardless of your position on past and present military operations, we owe a great deal of thanks to those willing to wear the uniform in service to our nation.
Northern Virginia is home to more than 12,000 military retirees, the Pentagon, Fort Belvoir, Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall and Arlington National Cemetery, the final resting place of hundreds of thousands of our veterans.
As our “next greatest generation” of young veterans returns home from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, there must be a continued commitment to honoring their service and sacrifice. These veterans come home to an economy slowly recovering and challenging job prospects. This Veterans Day, we should renew our efforts to keep our promise to the more than 24 million veterans, young and old, by helping them make a successful transition to the civilian working world.
As a senior member of the Veterans Affairs and Defense Appropriations Subcommittees, I have made it a priority to increase funding for veterans’ care to $135 billion, an 11 percent increase even at a time when the federal budget has been cut severely. This increase will go primarily to mental health care services, including suicide prevention, and research and treatment of traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – all unique challenges resulting from combat our young veterans face in the Middle East. This year’s bill also provides more than $5.3 billion to care for and house homeless vets.
The transition from the battlefield to the office park can be difficult. Though recent months have shown improvement, 10 percent of post 9/11 veterans are still unemployed. Included in this year’s Defense Appropriations bill is funding to provide 12 months of GI Bill benefits for retraining in emerging and in demand career fields for 100,000 unemployed veterans. I will continue supporting this and other efforts to assist in finding good jobs for our service members.
Education is key. With passage of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, Congress upheld its end of the bargain for our soldiers. This law is providing every veteran, including reservists and the National Guard who served after 9/11, education benefits equal to the cost of attending the most expensive public institution in their state of residence, applicable to their school of choice.
Our nation’s veterans and military families are the backbone of our national defense, ensuring the freedoms, liberties and American way of life we too often take for granted. We should be providing not only the tools our servicemembers need in battle, but also the educational training, job opportunities and medical care needed when they return home.
Rep. James Moran (D) is Virginia’s 8th Congressional District Representative in the U.S. House of Representatives.