ORANGE COUNTY, California—Although Veterans Day comes around once annually, U.S. national, state, and local governments participate in policies and programs that help veterans and their families throughout the year.
This week, President Barack Obama announced executive actions that are getting veterans back to work by helping them quickly find jobs they are qualified for as well as discovering available job postings.
As part of the American Jobs Act (AJA) being debated in Congress, the Returning Heroes and Wounded Warrior Tax Credit could give businesses incentives for hiring veterans.
The tax credit would be beneficial to veterans looking for work in Orange County (OC), as Chairman of the Veterans Affairs State Senate Committee and 34th Senate District Senator Lou Correa told the Viễn Dông that veterans are facing discrimination when applying for jobs in OC.
He continued, saying that employers are hesitant to hire veterans who could be called back to war at any time, as this could negatively impact their business.
“We’ve got these challenges when our resources are even lower,” Senator Correa said, mentioning California’s budget shortfalls and the high amount of veterans that will be returning from wars and conflict overseas.
California veterans, National Guard
Senator Correa told the Viễn Đông that California will probably have more veterans returning home than any other state.
He continued, saying that for the past decade, men and women have joined the California National Guard (CNG), believing they would have weekend duty for one weekend out of each month. Many of the people who joined are young mothers and fathers with regular jobs, signing up to help protect California if a disaster strikes.
However, the National Guard goes through the same combat preparation active duty Army soldiers do, thus its members are called to fight overseas, leaving their families, mortgages, and jobs for six months or longer.
These veterans are more prone to mental illness than other military personnel, as they are less mentally prepared for battle, Senator Correa said, adding that National Guard soldiers often serve four or five tours, completely disrupting their everyday lives as well as marriages.
“We have essentially a citizen army becoming professional,” he told the Viễn Đông.
Helping the vets, citizens
In mid-September 2011, the first “Stand Down” was held in OC, inviting homeless veterans to enjoy a shower, toiletries, and social services.
Other counties have been holding events like this for a while, Senator Correa told the Viễn Đông, adding that society needs to change its mentality toward veterans, honoring them with more than putting up a flag and pledging allegiance.
For example, he said that if a person is on a plane and notices a veteran sitting near the back, the person should offer the veteran a seat up front, openly recognizing the veteran's correct respected position in society.
Certain legislation that has made it easier for veterans to go back to school once they have toured overseas has definitely helped show veterans respect, Senator Correa said. However, there is still much more to be done.
“It’s [legislation] nibbling at the edges of the main issue, which is how to integrate them into our society,” he said.
However, there are more opportunities for veterans to become integrated, as well as receive help than there used to be.
Senator Correa told the Viễn Đông that upon finishing up a tour, veterans used to be checked in by the State and told they would be called if they were needed again.
Now, veterans get checked in and are checked up on periodically, to ensure they are recovering from possible mental or other effects resulting from their fighting overseas.
Senator Correa continued, saying families, politicians, and society in general can be instrumental in helping veterans by becoming educated on various subjects affecting veterans. Veterans affairs are not condensed into one issue for one political party, rather should be seen from both sides.
“It’s an issue of fairness, justice, and keeping our moral obligation to our veterans,” he said. “I hope it’s not just a one day special. It’s about helping veterans every day.”