Opening Statement of Hon. Timothy J. Walz, a Representative in Congress from the State of Minnesota
Madam Chairwoman and members of the subcommittee, I want to express my strong support for H.R. 1632, the Improving Veterans’ Reemployment Act. Congressman Dave Reichert and I introduced this legislation to enact a small, technical fix that will improve the way the federal government deals with National Guard and Reserve reemployment complaints. This legislation is an excellent example of the good work the Congress can do on behalf of our nation’s veterans.
My colleague Congressman Reichert realized the crucial role of the National Guard and Reserves early on in the Iraq War. He also understood that long deployments for the Guard and Reserves meant service members would be leaving their civilian jobs for months and years at a time. Congressman Reichert asked the GAO to study this issue in 2005, directing them to report on difficulties Guard and Reserve service members face when returning to their civilian jobs.
Among numerous results, the study found a simple problem in the way the Departments of Labor and Defense deal with complaints Guard and Reserve service members register when they return home and reenter the civilian workforce. These service members can file complaints dealing with the reemployment process with either the Department of Defense or the Department of Labor. However, these two departments are not fully sharing the complaint data as they work to improve the reemployment process and report to Congress. Congressman Reichert and I came up with a legislative fix to this problem. Our bill simply acts on GAO’s recommendations by requiring the federal agencies and departments that are involved with veterans’ reemployment complaints to fully share their data. The bill also requires that Congress receive all of this data in an aggregate report. Congressman Reichert and I offer a simple fix to a small problem that has a negative effect on thousands of veterans returning home to their civilian jobs.
As a retired Command Sergeant Major in the Army National Guard, I have an intimate understanding of the veterans’ reemployment issue. I deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom from 2003 to 2004 and was fortunate to have my job as a high school teacher waiting for me when I returned home. Unfortunately, the process was not as simple for every member of my unit and I have heard plenty of horror stories of both Guard members and Reservists who come home to a radically different job situation. Local businesses back home in Minnesota have done a tremendous job supporting the Guard and Reserves and bearing the financial burden of long deployments, but service members can still face problems when they return. Our bill goes a long way to improving the way the federal government deals with reemployment problems. While constituents I served with in the Guard and now represent in Congress may voice their problems and complaints to any number of federal agencies, I need to know that the Congress will get the full story on reemployment problems. Our bill does just that: ensuring that all the data is compiled so that federal agencies and the Congress can better understand reemployment problems and create effective solutions. I urge the subcommittee to support our legislation for the sake of thousands of Guard and Reserve service members who have served this country exceptionally and who need our help now.