Commentary: Make every day Veterans Day, back jobs bill

Do you remember Veteran's Day, Nov. 11? Do you remember your pride when you honored our solders, past and present, for their service to our nation?

Today our veterans need more than a day of remembrance; they need us proud-to-be-an-American citizens to take action by supporting Senate Bill S.6, the Putting Our Veterans Back to Work Act of 2013.

According to a 2013 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report, 750,000 veterans in the United States are unemployed. This is up from 689,000 the previous year. Almost a third are veterans of the second Gulf War and more than 15% are women. These figures do not include the underemployed.

In addition, about 1.4 million other veterans are considered at risk of homelessness because of poverty, lack of support networks and dismal living conditions in overcrowded or substandard housing. Veterans who have aided their country should not go without a secure place to call home.

Veterans who do not receive proper assistance can plunge into hopelessness, substance abuse and suicide.

The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans reports that veterans make up about 13% of the country's adult homeless. Of these, roughly 40% are ethnic minorities and 8% are female. Almost half are Vietnam-era veterans, two-thirds have served for three or more years, and one-third served in a war zone.

In a National Institute of Drug Abuse study from 2011, 27% of Army soldiers screened within three to four months of returning from an Iraq deployment "met criteria for alcohol abuse and were at increased risk for related harmful behaviors."

Without programs to support our veterans, mental health-related stress may lead to "divorce, substance abuse, family violence, unemployment, behavioral problems in children and other related issues that can have a lasting, detrimental effect on family life and society," the study said.

In the 2012 Suicide Data Report conducted by the Department of Veterans Affairs Mental Health Services Suicide Prevention Program, 21 states reported 147,000 suicides — 27,062 (18.3%) of them military veterans.

Veterans Across America indicated in 2012 that many of the 400-plus unemployed veterans interviewed had been unemployed for two years, with many stating that they were considering suicide.

The Putting Our Veterans Back to Work Act 2013 is a comprehensive employment package for veterans that extends and improves veterans' benefits for an additional two years.

Veterans would continue to be provided with training opportunities and unemployment support vital to securing and maintaining meaningful employment in the civilian sector. Veteran's Day should be every day.

In lieu of gifts this holiday season, please sign the Putting Our Veterans Back to Work Act 2013 petition at I have. I'm a proud American.

Irvine resident WENDY A. SAUNDERS is master's of social work candidate at USC.

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