Witness Testimony of COL Benjamin J. Corell, Commander, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division, Iowa National Guard, Johnston, IA
I appear in front of you today to ask for your help in addressing the continued issue of high unemployment rates for returning Reserve and National Guard veterans of our nation’s wars. I know that addressing this issue and applying additional resources to help solve this problem is the right thing to do. Our nation has been at war now longer than any other armed conflict in the history of our country. This last decade has been a long, tough fight for our military forces. I, like others have personally answered the call to duty time and time again. I have witnessed our hard-earned success in both Iraq and in Afghanistan. I have seen the sacrifice required by our men and women in uniform and by our families. Reserve and National Guard employers have quietly sacrificed at great costs with little thanks and no financial incentives to hire and retain our veterans.
The burden of carrying out the directives of our senior leadership and prosecuting these conflicts has been borne by less than 1 percent of our nation’s population. These are the dedicated men and women of our nation’s military. Never before has our Nation asked for so much from an all-volunteer military. Never before has our nation and the senior military leadership asked so much of the Reserve and National Guard. Not since the days of a national draft and conscription for World War II have we asked so much from our civilian employers. They have gone without some of their best and brightest who have left to support the war effort as we call up our Reserve Component service members. I am here today to ask you to start the process to produce incentives for those employers who hire and retain our veterans in their workforce. In addition, we need to find a way to provide incentives for small business owners who are members of our Reserve Components in order to help these veterans sustain their livelihood after they return from answering our country’s call.
Our nation and our people are currently in challenging financial times. Hard discussions and difficult decisions about spending are occurring not just in Washington DC, but across this nation. These same hard discussions are taking place at every business, large and small and at kitchen tables across our country. Our returning veterans, our Reserve and National Guard members have repeatedly answered the call to duty serving in these current wars. It is because of their continued sacrifice that America has remained safe while allowing the pursuit of these wars with a smaller active military force and with no draft. These veterans have skills and experience that many employers desire. The aggregate unemployment rate for our veterans is habitually higher than the national average rate of unemployment. I need your help to correct this. All of the job fairs and resume writing workshops in the world will only get my fellow veterans so far. I believe that we need to review and update the 1994 Cold War-focused Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994. Concurrently we must develop and implement legislation that will provide real incentives to the business sector and for those veterans that own small business or private professional practices. Once that is completed, we need to market it to employers and ensure that it is enforced.
This effort will introduce true benefits for hiring and retaining our veterans and enable veterans who own a business to remain competitive in today’s challenging environment. I need your assistance to do this, and I ask for your help today.