Sen. Jay Rockefeller: Serving those who served our country

November 11, 2012|By SEN. JAY ROCKEFELLER

It is my true privilege to serve our veterans in the United States Senate. As the longest serving member of the Committee on Veterans Affairs, I am proud to partner with our veterans groups on important legislation and to stand behind our veterans at every turn.

I can think of no greater honor than working to help those who have served and sacrificed for us to enjoy the many freedoms we have as Americans.

Veterans are our heroes. We have a profound respect for veterans because, time and time again, these men and women have answered the call of duty with distinction, honor, and courage. We owe veterans nothing less than our complete gratitude, our loyalty, and our best efforts to serve them once they return home.

That transition home and adjustment to life after combat and military service is difficult. Our veterans who return home are juggling so much. I often talk to veterans about trying to find jobs or retooling their job skills for an ever-changing economy and job market, coping with injuries, finding a place to live and homes for their families — all while finding their way back into the rhythm of everyday family schedules and daily life.

Our veterans deserve to be supported in all of those transitions.

It is up to every one of us to do our part in our communities, our churches, our workplaces and our families to show our veterans our thanks. I also want to thank all the veterans who have partnered with me to help move forward laws to support our veterans.

Thank you to every brave soldier who told his or her story and helped us pass the Mental Health ACCESS Act of 2012. I co-sponsored that law to improve access to support services and care for veterans and their families because too many soldiers and families are suffering with PTSD and even suicide. This law puts a focus on improving VA mental health services and better training providers of those services.

Thank you to every veteran who is dedicated to furthering their education and to those who help veterans realize that goal. Just as the Congress did following World War II, we created the Post 9/11 Bill, which helped more than 590,000 servicemembers, veterans, and other beneficiaries go to college this year.

Finding the right school and navigating government benefits can be time-consuming and confusing. So, this year I supported the GI Bill Consumer Awareness Act that requires the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and Department of Defense to work together to make sure that our veteran scholars have easy-to-understand information about schools approved for GI Bill funding, and a trained counselor at every school to discuss available service member benefits.

Thank you to every veteran who shares their military skills with all of us when given the opportunity of a good job when they return. I have heard from so many of you. As a result of our conversations, I introduced a bill that eases the commercial driver’s license application process for Armed Forces members and veterans. That bill is now law and now more veterans can put their military training to use for jobs right here in West Virginia — whether going to work as a professional driver for our thriving manufacturing industry or for our booming natural gas sector. This is a win-win for veterans and industry in West Virginia.

For those veterans looking to work in other fields, I co-sponsored legislation signed into law last year to help veterans get job skills training when they return home. And I continue to support a bill that encourages the hiring of veterans as firefighters, law enforcement officers, first responders or EMT workers. Our service members and veterans are proven leaders and model workers who should be welcomed as great assets in any workplace.

 Our veterans make incredible sacrifices for our country, and I am absolutely committed to seeing they get the care and benefits they deserve — across the board.

 Providing veterans with health care, education and job support services are important ways to show our deep appreciation for the immeasurable contributions they have made for our country. Also, please keep our active duty West Virginians currently serving our country and protecting freedom all around the world in your thoughts.

I encourage you to show your respect and gratitude each and every day to our veterans and service members. They’ve earned it.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., was elected to the United States Senate in 1984, and re-elected in 1990, 1996, 2002 and 2008.

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