Joe Halicker, a WWII Veteran from Northwest Ohio, recently participated in an Honor Flight visit to the WWII Memorial in the nation’s capitol. After liberating Lorient, France from Nazi occupation, Mr. Halicker returned home to a grateful nation with the resources needed to provide for his three children.
Today, young veterans often return to their communities and struggle to access the benefits they’ve earned. Whether it’s mental health services, assistance with obtaining disability benefits, vocational rehabilitation, or employment support, too many veterans encounter excessive delays in getting a response from the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA).
After hearing of wait times in excess of more than an hour, I tasked my staff with calling the Veterans Support Hotline at 1-800-827-1000. The wait times my staff experienced ranged from a minimum of 28 minutes to nearly an hour. Ohio veterans should not be put on hold when calling the Veterans’ service hotline. These men and women put their lives on hold to protect our country; and they should have been stuck on hold when they try to access the resources they need to meet their needs. That’s why I recently sent a letter to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to make sure veterans can get the help they need – when they need it.
Many veterans who rely on the hotline live in areas – especially rural, Appalachian communities – without immediate access to a VA center. That’s why I’ve introduced legislation, the Veterans Outreach Enhancement Act, that would create a partnership between the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. This effort can improve access to VA and other government services such as: technical support for veterans applying for Small Business Administration resources and other federal loans. This is about improving the lives of veterans in Appalachia – and throughout Ohio.
And our efforts shouldn’t wait until veterans are in their twilight years.
Young veterans seeking to use their GI Bill benefits – to study fuel cell manufacturing at Hocking College, engineering at Cleveland State, mathematics at The Ohio State University, or nursing at Cincinnati State – should be able to do so with confidence that they will get the support they need.
However, when veterans seek to use their GI Bill education benefits, they are too often subjected to overly aggressive and misleading marketing tactics from some fly-by-night educational institutions. Some institutions are more concerned with their own bottom lines than with helping veterans who served on the front lines.
That’s why I am a proud sponsor of legislation to restrict misleading marketing practices targeted at Ohio veterans. The GI Consumer Bill Awareness Act would complement veterans’ educational assistance programs by requiring the VA to provide beneficiaries with easy-to-understand, jargon-free information about schools that are approved for GI Bill use.
Servicemembers – already armed with the discipline and skills needed to strengthen the 21st century economy – should not have to struggle to find a job when their military service ends. Yet more than 20 percent of our nation’s veterans between the ages of 20 and 24 years old are unemployed.
We all have a responsibility to help America’s veterans find the resources needed to resume their civilian lives. The VOW to Hire Heroes Act – a new law that provides tax credits for employers who hire unemployed veterans and helps connect veterans with job opportunities – moves us closer to fulfilling that obligation.
But we can do even more. That’s why I recently worked to connect veterans seeking jobs with officials from the Chesapeake Energy Corporation at a jobs fair held at the University Center at Kent State University’s Stark campus in North Canton.
Last summer, I also helped launch the Solar by Soldiers program, which connects servicemembers with one of the fastest growing industries in the United States – clean energy development.
Our nation owes its freedom to people who answered the call of duty and risked their lives for their families, neighbors, and nation. Whenever they need assistance – be it for medical care as they age or a student loan as they enter the next phase of their lives – they deserve a system that works with, not against them.
If you’re interested in joining our efforts, contact my office at 888-896-OHIO (6446) or www.brown.senate.gov for additional information on how we can help end high unemployment among America’s veterans.