Supporting our Veterans

Friday, March 21, 2014

Supporting our Veterans

I am not a veteran of the armed forces. I have never defended my country overseas or been on high alert for a domestic issue. I will probably never know the horrors of war, but I see veterans coming home forever changed by their experiences.

A friend of mine came back from his military service overseas and started applying for jobs. He had a college degree and a distinguished military career, but for some reason he was not getting any calls or interviews. As an experiment, he removed his military service from his resume and re-applied to a company he had already been rejected from. Almost immediately they called him for an interview. Does something seem wrong here?

Veteran discrimination is a growing problem among our service men and women who come back from combat. We are not exactly sure why this is the case – no employer will voluntarily admit to discriminating against veterans – but unfortunately it is a growing scenario.

Our veterans are expected to come home and re-join the civilian world as productive members of society, but this treatment from employers makes their task infinitely more difficult.

Indiana Code 22-9-1-3 specifically states that discriminatory practices are “the exclusion of a person from equal opportunities because of race, religion, color, sex, disability, national origin or ancestry.” This legislative session, I authored House Enrolled Act (HEA) 1242, adding veterans and members of the Indiana National Guard to the list of protected classes.

There are employers who make a point to hire veterans, and to them I extend my sincerest gratitude. These companies see the value in hiring men and women with valuable experiences and dedication to our country.

Some veterans do not come home ready to re-join the workforce though, and it is our duty to ensure that they are given proper access to rehabilitative treatment options and other resources that make for an easier transition to civilian life.

I helped craft Senate Enrolled Act (SEA) 180 which establishes the Veterans Disability Clinic Fund to provide grant funding to qualified law schools that have a veterans disability clinic. It also establishes the Indiana Veteran Recovery Program and Fund to provide rehabilitation services to veterans who have a traumatic brain injury (TBI) or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the Brain Injury Rehabilitation and Community Living Commission to establish a statewide plan to address the needs of those affected by a brain injury.

There have been great medical advancements designed to treat these conditions, and we need to do everything we can to provide treatment that could drastically improve their quality of life and help them heal. After the Vietnam War, many soldiers came home and developed illnesses related to Agent Orange exposure, and we did not provide treatment until it was too late. We cannot make the same mistakes with our soldiers who are coming home now.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) has shown remarkable results in helping veterans with a TBI or PTSD. SEA 180 requires a study to be done about HBOT and other treatments conducted by the Indiana State Department of Health in consultation with the Department of Mental Health & Addiction and the Indiana Department of Veteran’ Affairs to find the best treatment options available, potentially improving the lives of the 71,000 – 77,000 Hoosier veterans suffering with these conditions.

Hoosier veterans contribute so much to our state and country. I cannot begin to express my gratitude for their service, and I hope that these pieces of legislation at least start to make a difference in their lives.

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State Rep. Martin Carbaugh serves as Vice Chairman of the Insurance Committee. He also serves on the Employment, Labor and Pensions Committee and the Veterans Affairs and Public Safety Committee.  Rep. Carbaugh represents a portion of Allen County.