Opening Statement of Hon. Marlin A. Stutzman, Chairman, Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity
Good morning. Usually when we hold hearings, we are sitting in Washington. Today, I am delighted to be here in Fort Wayne. Northeast Indiana is home to 48,000 veterans. These men and women have served our nation with honor, and it is my honor to serve as their voice in Congress on the House Veterans Affairs Committee. In Chairing the Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity, I have the opportunity on working on veterans employment and education issues alongside the Ranking Member of this subcommittee, the Honorable Bruce Braley, who represents Iowa’s First Congressional District. Earlier this week he hosted me in Waterloo, Iowa where we were able to hear from many Iowa veterans. I am happy to introduce him to you today and welcome him to Fort Wayne.
Ft. Wayne has a long history beginning with settlements by Native Americans in the area followed by a fort built by General Mad Anthony Wayne in the 1790s. Since then, Ft. Wayne has played an important role in Indiana’s history and is known for its manufacturing, education, insurance, health care, logistics, and defense and security. Ft. Wayne has been named an All American City on three occasions, most recently in 2009.
We are here today to hear from Hoosiers about the employment difficulties facing far too many members of the Indiana National Guard, the Reserves, and those returning from active duty. While the unemployment rate for all Indiana veterans in September was 6.9 percent, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that 35.6 percent of America’s Gulf Era II veterans ages 20 to 24 were unemployed, while 8.8 percent of Gulf Era II veterans ages 25-54 were unemployed.
More shocking is anecdotal information that as much as 30 percent of returning members of the Guard and Reserves do not come home to a job. Clearly, we need to find ways to reduce all of those numbers. The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs has taken a first step toward that end last week by passing H.R. 2433, a bill that would provide up to a year of GI Bill benefits to unemployed veterans between the ages of 35 and 60. The bill now goes to the Senate and we hope to get the bill to the President by Veterans Day along with several other improvements to veterans benefits.
I want to take a moment to explain that this meeting is a formal hearing to be inserted into the official Congressional record. In keeping with the standard protocol of official committee hearings, we will not be taking questions from the audience during the hearing. I am pleased so many of you are here today and I look forward to speaking to you, answering questions, and listening to your comments and concerns after the conclusion of this hearing in the main hallway.
Again, I am delighted to be with you today and I will now yield to the gentleman whose office is next to mine, the distinguished Ranking Member of the Subcommittee, my good friend, the Honorable Bruce Braley.