Our Soldiers Fought For America, So Why Won’t Congress Fight For Them?

Unemployment is still a major problem in America—we know this. After the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program expired in December of 2013, the number of unemployed citizens who no longer receive benefits that keep them alive has risen to 3 million people. The citizens who should never have to worry about feeding their families, the ones who fought and watched their friends die for this country, found 130,000 of their people losing those benefits in December. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), that number will rise to nearly 300,000 by the end of this month.

The same folks in Congress and the Senate who think we should spend money bombing every country that spits on an American flag are worried about how fiscally responsible retroactive benefits or any benefits at all can be. We have money to send them to die, but we don’t have any money for them when they get back. There have been plenty of proposals to get these benefits back, but our lobotomized Congress and Senate can’t seem to agree on anything.

“We’ve got to be engaged in Iraq; it’s in our national interest to help reverse the momentum and the spread of terrorism,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said on Wednesday of the ISIS problem. “We have always said that we’re willing to look at extending emergency unemployment benefits again, if Washington Democrats can come up with a plan that is fiscally-responsible,” Boehner said in March. Where is your fiscally-responsible plan for going back into Iraq, Mr. Speaker?

Iraq aside—we are failing our soldiers. Bringing back unemployment benefits for everyone is undeniably necessary, but it seems even more important to get our soldiers back on their feet. One of the major problems for veterans is they tend to have a higher unemployment rate as a group than the rest of the country. “In March 2012, post-9/11 veterans ages 20-24 were at an unemployment rate of 36 percent,” says America’s Debt Help Organization. The average percentage of unemployed veterans is typically only a few points higher than the national average, but there are certainly times and specific groups of veterans that are much worse.

The White House and the Legislature need to get unemployment benefits back for everyone. In lieu of that, the VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011 should be expanded to entice more companies to hire veterans. On top of that, the VA’s unemployment benefits program should also be expanded to help more soldiers. Let’s just hope the soldiers don’t have to wait four months to get them from the VA.

The recent VA scandal is enough to make you cringe. I am not a veteran and never have been, but I’ve spoken with enough veterans and military experts to know how fraught with incompetence their support system can be. There are at least around 58,000 homeless veterans as we speak.Many of these veterans kill themselves due to lack of mental health services and financial support, with around 22 veterans killing themselves every day.

Perhaps President Obama should sign an executive order to help these unemployed veterans get back on their feet, because we know Boehner will at least get a law suit going if he’s not going to get some legislation together. There is a wealth of time and money the size of an aircraft carrier for planning wars, but the amount of time and money for helping soldiers when they get home is more akin to the size of a guillotine.