Buffalo, NY – For many veterans, the celebration of Veterans Day is clouded by the harsh realities of coming home after bravely serving their country. United States Senator Kirsten Gillibrand on Tuesday announced new efforts to help unemployed, homeless and disabled veterans.
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Hundreds of thousands of veterans come home from combat and can not find a job. Gillibrand said nearly 15 percent of all new veterans are out of work - 8,800 veterans in western New York alone. Gillibrand said there is already an incentive in place through the Recovery Act that could put many to work. It allows businesses to get back up to $2,400 for each veteran they hire. Gillibrand said the problem is few know about it.
She is writing the chambers of commerce statewide to get the word out and has requested the U.S. Labor Department promote the incentive on its web site.
Gillibrand also introduced legislation that would establish a veterans business center. Modeled after the Women's Business Center and run by the Small Business Administration, the center would be funded with $150,000 to provide information, support and assistance for veterans who want to start their own business.
Tragically though, Gillibrand said many veterans have to find a home first. In New York today there are 130,000 homeless veterans. Over 70,000 veterans recently home from Iraq and Afghanistan spend more than half their income just for housing.
"Obviously, these statistics are outrageous," said Gillibrand. "These are men and women who have risked everything for country and we should make sure they have a home when they come back."
Gillibrand's legislation calls for a line to be added to tax forms giving taxpayers the option of donating three dollars to a fund for homeless veterans.
She said more help could soon be in place to get disabled veterans the benefits they need and deserve. Congress is currently debating a veterans funding bill that would add 1,200 claims processors to the current workforce to speed up claims. There are currently about a million cases back-logged of veterans waiting to receive benefits. Gillibrand said the delays can have devastating results.
If approved, the funding would double the claims process workforce next year from 2005 levels.