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Opening Statement of Hon. Bruce L. Braley, Ranking Democratic Member, Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity

I am honored to hold this field hearing today here in Waterloo and would like to welcome Chairman Marlin Stutzman to my hometown, my district and the great state of Iowa. I know you will enjoy your visit here with the good folks from Iowa. 

In July and August of this year, over 3000 Iowa National Guard troops returned from active duty in Afghanistan, and we have a number of these hard working Guardsmen looking for jobs. Iowa and our service members, National Guard, Reservists, and veterans are not immune to the economic hardships facing the rest of the country.  That is why I am glad to have the opportunity today to hear about these growing concerns surrounding veterans; specifically, employment, transition, and education matters affecting National Guard Members, Reservists and veterans in Iowa, and across the nation.  This is a great opportunity to be part of an open discussion to find solutions to these problems. 

Transitioning services are critical for the success of our men and women in the Armed Forces.  Joining the military is not just about following orders and completing the mission, it’s a way of life.  But when it’s time to join the civilian world, it can sometimes be a challenge to translate skills learned in the military into talking points on a job resume.  That’s why it is crucial that transitioning services should be provided to everyone leaving the military. 

An education can help you learn a new skill or reinforce the skills you already know, but it can also help you adapt as a civilian.  The Committee recognizes the importance of service members and veterans pursuing an education which is why we continue to fight so hard to improve education benefits.  Current education benefits allows certain veterans to attend school full-time while getting a housing stipend, thus allowing veterans to be fully engaged in academics.

We are all well aware of the current employment crisis facing our nation.  With an unemployment rate of 6.1 percent in Iowa, I am constantly working with my colleagues in Congress to find solutions to the recent economic downturn.  I understand how these hardships can be, and I find the high unemployment rate for veterans unacceptable.

Earlier this year I introduced a bill to cut payroll taxes for businesses that hire unemployed veterans. The Combat Veterans Back to Work Act provides employers with a payroll tax break if they hire recently returned veterans who are unemployed. After their distinguished service in Afghanistan and Iraq, we should do all we can to help veterans and members of the Iowa Guard find employment in their communities.  This legislation will support our friends and neighbors in the Iowa National Guard, Reserves, and other military branches who have recently returned home and face a difficult job market. 

Today I look forward to hearing from Iowa National Guard Members about some of the challenges they face as they make the transition back into society after serving overseas. I have invited local businesses to testify to hear about initiatives they are taking to get veterans back to work. I also look forward to hearing from different agencies and the work they are doing related to veterans employment.

I hope we can all have an open and honest dialogue about problems and concerns facing our veterans today that will continue after this hearing in Washington, DC as we work together to address these issues. Service members and veterans are dedicated and hard working. Their experience is invaluable. Thousands of Iowans have returned home after serving proudly overseas this past year alone.  Now we must support them and help them transition their great experience and talent back into the Iowa workforce. 

Mr. Chairman, I look forward to this hearing. Thank you and I yield back.