[r63] A debt of gratitude to our veterans

Posted by: Zach Weismiller  | Friday, June 14, 2013

It seems that only during special occasions, like national holidays and ceremonies, that we pay tribute to our country’s servicemen and women for everything they do to protect us and our freedoms. There is greater support for our troops now than in some decades past, but, I feel that the job of a solider is underappreciated.

Each day, while we are dropping off our kids at school and rushing off to work, we don’t often think about the fact that somewhere, thousands of miles away, someone is risking their life and sacrificing time from their families to keep our families safe.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for post 9/11 veterans in Indiana is 20 percent. We know that a better job leads to a better quality of life. When the job market is weak, one of the most effective ways of acquiring a high quality job is through higher levels of education.

This session, we offered a means by which returning veterans can receive assistance in going back to school. If an individual decides to enroll in undergraduate courses within 12 months of having served and been honorably discharged from the U.S. armed forces or the Indiana National Guard, they will now be eligible for the resident tuition rate at any state university. This also applies to anyone currently serving in the Indiana National Guard. It is our goal that veterans coming to Indiana for postsecondary education will also choose to live and work in Indiana after graduation.

With the large pool of unemployed veterans in Indiana, we also wanted to provide a way that they can build upon the skills they’ve already received in military training. Many of them have medical experience from the military — a valuable skill and resource, which until now, the state has not properly utilized. Starting next month, the Emergency Medical Services Commission will be able to issue a license or certificate to a military service applicant who meets certain requirements, such as completing a military program of training.

While some Hoosier veterans are looking for work, some already own small businesses across the state. To help them as well, we passed legislation which will increase the contract opportunities for veteran-owned small businesses. With an estimated number of over 70,000 veteran owned or partially owned small businesses in Indiana, there are plenty of opportunities for the state to contract with these businesses. They have earned the work granted by the state and generally hire more veterans to work for the companies; a win-win.

I am very proud to have worked on and supported the legislative measures that have been now been signed into law. They will go a long way towards recognizing veterans for their service to our country. However, while these may be major changes, they are only minor in comparison to the sacrifices made by our men and women on the frontlines.