U.S. Senator Scott Brown visited with over 50 veterans and locals interested in veterans’ affairs in Quincy today to discuss and help mitigate some of the growing problems returning veterans are facing.
The U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs field hearing took place at Quincy’s City Hall, and enabled Brown to discuss several of the veterans’ growing concerns.
There’s a litany of problems, including the fact that it took, on average, 394 days to complete a disability claim through the DOD/VA’s system as of March 2011. There is also growing veteran unemployment and severe mental health challenges.
“After proudly serving their country, veterans should come home to a good-paying job, not mountains of bureaucracy from the VA,” Senator Brown, a 32-year member of the Massachusetts Army National Guard and member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said in a release prior to the meeting. “The unemployment rate among returning veterans is unacceptably high. I look forward to hearing from the experts to find ways to speed up the process of receiving their benefits and make it easier for our heroes to find jobs.”
The meeting brought veterans from Woburn and Plymouth together, as well as Mike Sweeney, President of the Massachusetts Veterans’ Service Officers Association, Francisco Urena, Commissioner of Veterans Services for the City of Boston, and Brad Mayes, Director, VA Boston Regional Office.
Several legislative steps have already been taken, Brown representatives said.
The Hire a Hero act, introduced by Brown with Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) in February, was passed and signed into law in Nov. 21. The bill expands the Work Opportunity Tax Credit to create incentives for small businesses to hire veterans.
The Hiring Heroes Act, also passed on Nov. 21, additionally aims to help improve job training for military members as they transition to civilian life.
Furthermore, the Arlington National Cemetery bill will provide Congressional oversight to ensure proper management of the cemetery, the Helping Our Homeless Veterans Act is strengthening the federal program that provides housing vouchers, counseling, and job training to returning veterans, and the National Guard Basic Allowance for Housing Equity Act is helping National Guardsmen receive the proper payment upon deployment.
Brown also helped introduce and pass the Office of Service Member Affairs, which created a new Office of Service Member Affairs at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureu.
There were also recently 17 new employees hired at the Boston VA office to help trudge through the backlog of clients waiting on some type of response from the Department.
Despite several recently passed laws, today’s discussion was still a revelation.
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This story first ran in the Boston Globe on December 12, 2011.