NEWBURGH—Congressman Sean Maloney (NY, 18) arrived on the campus of Mount St. Mary College on Nov. 7 to highlight legislation that revamps and streamlines the VA’s Veteran Rehabilitation and Education program for disabled veterans. Called the Wounded Warrior Education Improvement Act, the bipartisan bill is expected to pass the House within weeks. Maloney says the VA is not adequately caring for vets who need work.
Upgrade Needed for VA
Maloney says vets who have been wounded in combat have an unemployment rate of 18 percent. “That’s crazy in a country where unemployment is now 5 percent and unacceptable”—and higher than unemployment for other veterans.
The General Accounting Office studied the problem and found that it can take six years for a disabled veteran to navigate through the system for job opportunities.
A caseworker may have 200 cases to handle. Maloney’s bill requires the Secretary of the Veterans Administration to report on a way to streamline the program by reducing the caseload and training department employees on the issues plaguing disabled vets, such as PTSD and traumatic brain injuries.
Maloney noted the numbers of vets who need immediate help to find work. “We have a huge generation of vets returning right now and trying to reenter the work force.”
The congressman said his father benefited from the GI bill which helped WWII vets to return to society. His father was seriously injured serving in the Navy. He got through school without debt and entered the workforce. “He was able to restart his life because there was a country that had his back.”
Maloney says the country must do the same for the latest generation of veterans. “The service they provide for us needs to be repaid by the rest of us. How are we serving our veterans?”
Help for Service
Malony says his legislation gives vets a better chance to contribute to society in a positive way. “We are going to help you reenter this work force to be productive because we want your talent, we want your skills, and we want to make sure that, if you serve this country, that you have an opportunity to live the American dream, to raise your family, get a good job, and have a good life.”
He was joined by Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus and officials and students of Mount St. Mary’s. Neuhaus said a veteran who had been deployed twice to Afghanistan was not hired for a position in law enforcement because he admitted he needed help in dealing with terrible scenes he witnessed on duty. “He said he saw what Afghanis did to civilians. He was honest during his interview. That red-flagged him.”
Lieutenant Colonel Bruno Gatta of the 105th Airwing at Stewart teaches at the Mount as an adjunct professor and says Maloney’s legislation is “a noble endeavor.”
“Bottomline,” Maloney said, “no one should fight for their country and come home and have to fight their government.”
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