Veteran's Day: A time to honor those who serve
The adage goes that active military accounts for less than 1% of the population, but all of us are impacted by their heroism. Nearly all of us have neighbors, friends, family members, classmates who have stepped up to serve over the past decade. As of September 2010, there were 23 million veterans living in the United States, and 2.3 million of those veterans have served in Iraq or Afghanistan. There are 1.8 million women veterans, and women currently make up 14% of active duty military personnel.
This Veteran’s Day, with the number of veterans on the rise and their needs upon return to civilian life increasingly complex in today’s tough economy, it’s become clear that we need leaders who can meet these new challenges. Women may only make up 17% of Congress, but they are continuously hard at work supporting the needs of all veterans and their families. Like so many other issues, the way the EMILY’s List elected officials solve problems and advocate for other women has been essential when it comes to military and veterans affairs. These are just a few of our women who have been leaders on helping veterans:
- In October 2011 Senator Patty Murray, Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, sponsored and passed a bill to help veterans make ends meet by providing cost of living adjustments to veteran’s disability and family benefits. She also worked to pass the Women Veteran’s Health Improvement Act of 2009 which “will address many of the unique needs of female veterans, particularly those women who are returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.”
- Rep. Niki Tsongas, member of the House Armed Services Committee has paid particular attention to the incidence of sexual assault in the military, which affects one in three female service members. She introduced the Defense STRONG Act in April 2011, which would expand the legal rights and protections for service members who have been victims of sexual assault.
- Senator Kirsten Gillibrand knows that empowering veterans through educational opportunities and swift transitions to the work force will play a key role in the revitalization of the economy. While in the House of Representatives, Gillibrand co-sponsored the Post 9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act, which ensures that all members of the military have access to the educational opportunities they deserve. In the Senate, Gillibrand helped establish a tax credit for businesses that hired recently returned soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan.
- Senator Claire McCaskill has worked to improve access of health care services to rural veterans and co-authored the HERO Act, which would require research and evaluation of the mental and physical health needs of military men and women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, with a particular focus on the effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
- Rep. Nita Lowey introduced a bill to mandate that the services of United States Cadet Nurse Corps during WWII be counted as military service for the purpose of laws administered by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
- Rep. Jackie Speier sponsored legislation to provide mental health screenings for veterans- to help identify mental health injuries and reduce the incidence of suicide among the veteran population.
As we celebrate this Veterans Day, may we also remember one of the best ways to honor our men and women in uniform is to help them when they come home. We’re grateful that EMILY’s List elected officials are leading the way.