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Witness Testimony of Hon. Sanford D. Bishop, Jr., a Representative in Congress from the State of Georgia

I would like to thank Chairman Miller, Ranking Member Filner, and the rest of the House Veterans Affairs Committee for inviting me to testify today on behalf of the Hiring Heroes Act of 2011

As you are aware, the current economic environment has left millions of Americans out of work and has made it exceptionally difficult for them to find jobs.  This problem is particularly acute in our nation’s veterans community. 

Recent data has shown that veterans, especially those who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan, face an unemployment rate of over 27 percent after leaving the service.  This situation is simply unacceptable and represents a failure of us here in Congress to help our nation’s veterans.  As the war in Iraq comes to an end and we begin to draw down our forces in Afghanistan, even more veterans will be looking for work, further compounding this problem. 

With this in mind, I thank Senator Murray for taking the lead on this issue and originally introducing the Hiring Heroes Act of 2011 in the U.S. Senate. 

It is also for this reason that I am proud to have introduced, with the help of Ranking Member Filner, Chairman Bill Young of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, Ranking Member Norm Dicks of the full Appropriations Committee, and Representative Jerry McNerney, the House companion bill to Senator Murray’s legislation. Here in the House, the measure has already garnered 55 cosponsors, representing Republicans and Democrats from both ends of the political spectrum.

I would like to add that this legislation has gained the support of various veterans and servicemember groups including the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Military Officers Association of America, and Military Families United.

The Hiring Heroes Act has already passed favorably out of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  It is my hope that this committee will follow the Senate’s lead and quickly send this measure to the full House for its consideration.  

Now let me discuss the details of the legislation:

  • Along with modernizing Federal hiring practices, this bill makes participation in the Transition Assistance Program mandatory for separating servicemembers. 
  • It requires that each servicemember receive an individualized assessment of jobs for which they may qualify.
  • It creates new programs aimed at improving the transition from servicemember to civilian life, including a competitive grant program for nonprofit organizations that provide mentoring services and job training that lead directly to job placements. 
  • It also aims to break down barriers between the Department of Defense, the Department of Labor, and the Department of Veterans Affairs and makes it easier for servicemembers to smoothly transition to veteran status.

Finally, I want to stress that we have an obligation to help our veterans land on their feet when they come home and help them find good paying jobs to support their families.  These are the members of our society that have risked the most for our country.  Our current system, although well-intended, simply does not focus enough on our service-members transition into civilian life. 

Providing more support to our nation’s veterans is simply the right thing to do, and I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle and passing the Hiring Heroes Act of 2011. 

I thank the Committee for inviting me to testify, and I am happy to respond to any questions.