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Friday, March 16, 2012

Veterans' services see possible funding cut of 9%

Participants in the 2010 Memorial Day Parade in Washington, D.C. carried photos of troops who gave their lives for service for the United States/Patricia Leslie

At the Center for American Progress last week a packed audience sat and listened intently to a discussion about the plight of American veterans who need jobs and services. 
Unless Congress fails to act and compromise on the debt ceiling, services for veterans will be cut 9.1% this January.  Troop withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan are expected to bring about 100,000 veterans home to the U.S.

On a CAP panel to discuss veterans' needs were Tom Tarantino, deputy policy director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Robert Greenstein, president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Koby Langley, Corporation for National and Community Service, and CAP's Lawrence Korb.

Mr. Tarantino held the microphone the most, meaning he talked the most, too.

We do a great job of training troops for combat, Mr. Tarantino said, but transitioning from military to civilian life and finding a job, is very, very difficult for many servicemen and women.
It is time to train employers how to hire veterans.

Most employers "have no idea what a military resume is." Veterans sometimes omit their service dates for fear of being tagged with post-traumatic stress disorder.

The present generation of employers is the first which has not served in the military, a contributing factor to lack of veteran hiring. Modern employers "look at (military) service as a 'black hole,'" Mr. Tarantino said.

When Army captains in their late 20s leave service, some find jobs as interns because employers do not understand their military resumes.  U.S. troops who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan number 2.4 million; 5 million saw duty in Vietnam.

At the presentation, the Veterans Administration came in for sharp criticism for its continuing poor treatment of female service members who are the fastest growing segment of the homeless veteran population. At the VA women are often treated like spouses rather than members themselves.

The VA is not a very welcoming place for women vets, Mr. Tarantino said, describing a scene he witnessed at the VA Medical Center in Washington where a female service member had to almost get physical before she convinced a staff member she was a vet and not a spouse.
Programs are needed to educate veterans about the hazards of payday lending and about for-profit schools, some which have low completion rates.

It was good to see attention devoted to veterans and reminded one audience member of a recent "military night" at a Capitals hockey game at the Verizon Center when armed forces shared more of the spotlight than usual, and wounded vets played hockey in-between game periods. The hearts of the silent crowd ached as fans watched with admiration, the wounded warriors without legs shoot pucks from specially equipped sleds. And hoped they would be the last.

One of CAP's briefing papers available at the presentation listed alternative expenditures to the 60% defense budget growth over the last 10 years:

$ Instead of $25 million for one Trident II nuclear missile, why not spend it on a proposed cut of $23.3 million for veterans training and employment services?

$ Instead of $468 million for six V-22 Osprey helicopters, why not spend it on a proposed cut of almost $410 million for energy assistance for low-income households, one in five which has at least one vet?

$ Instead of $7 million for 54 active-duty personnel in Europe and Asia, why not spend $6.8 million on proposed cuts to housing for homeless veterans?

$ Instead of $35 billion on half the cost of Defense Department overruns, why not spend $38.6 billion on proposed cuts to veterans' services?

Money for people, not weapons, not things.

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