The current unemployment rate for veterans returning to the civilian job market is 10.9%, a rate that is 35% higher than the nationwide rate of 8.1%. Veterans who have fought in the two longest wars in American history are being denied jobs they are qualified for because there is no money in state and local budgets to hire policemen and firemen. In addition, the stress of repeated deployments has caused significant emotional trauma and disruption in the lives of our military and their families. Statistics show that every 80 minutes a veteran commits suicide.
The US Senate had been working on a bill called the Veterans Job Corps Act of 2012. The bill was budget neutral as it called for cuts in other programs. It provided funds so local governments could hire our vets as firemen and policemen. It was generally believed that the bill had bipartisan support.
Our PA senators had two contrasting roles to play in the action ultimately taken on this bill in the Senate. Sen. Robert Casey was one of the 10 co-sponsors of the bill and actively supported it. Senate Democratic leaders invited our own Sen. Pat Toomey and 3 other Republicans to help write this legislation. They all agreed to help and did indeed write parts of the legislation. On September 19, 2012 the Senate voted 58-40 to stop debate and allow the bill to go before the full Senate for a vote. Because Senate rules require 60 votes to end filibuster of a bill, the bill was sent back to be placed on next year's calendar. This action effectively killed the bill. All Senate Democrats voted to end the filibuster. Only 5 Republicans joined the Democrats on this vote. Interestingly, all 4 Republicans helped write the bill, including our own Senator Pat Toomey, voted against ending the filibuster.
I checked on the internet and found as I expected that none of these 4 Senate Republicans who helped to write the bill and then voted to table it are up for reelection this year. It appears that it would be politically safe for them to vote against ending the filibuster. There are no "Profiles in Courage" here. In fact, Senator Toomey's term does not expire until 2016. I ask you, Mr. Editor, why the Observer did not cover this story and the significant roles our two senators played in this political action. I will remember Senator Toomey's actions on this bill when his term ends and he has to ask the electorate to send him back to the Senate. Our veterans who have answered the call to serve at great personal peril deserve much more respect from our law makers than this cheap political maneuvering. Frankly, America deserves better also.
Elaine M. Wiehagen