U.S. Rep. Joe Baca

Rep. Joe Baca
Posted: 11/10/2011 08:33:21 AM PST

Every Veterans Day, Americans come together to remember those who have served our country around the world in the name of freedom and democracy. Veterans Day is not just another day off from school or work, it is a day to reflect and understand the sacrifices made by men and women in uniform through the history of the United States.

As we remember the patriotic service of so many this Veterans Day, let us take the time to thank the men and women who continue to serve today. Let us also honor the memory of the 4,480 Americans who have died in Iraq and nearly 1,700 who have died in Afghanistan, and the sacrifices of our wounded: more than 32,000 U.S. troops in Iraq and 14,600 in Afghanistan.

As a Vietnam-era veteran, I am deeply committed to ensure America keeps our promises to our nation’s 22 million-plus veterans, especially the 23,940 veterans living right here in California’s 43rd Congressional District.

In recent years, Congress has been active in passing significant legislative efforts to provide historic budget increase for veterans, expand access to VA health care, improve health services for all veterans, and modernize benefits earned by America’s troops. From 2007 to 2010, the Democratic-controlled Congress provided a 60 percent increase in VA discretionary funding, adding nearly $23 billion for veterans’ health care and services. During this same time period, Congress also passed into law a new, the post 9-11 GI Bill, one that provides the opportunity for a full, four-year college education to the veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts.

But with our economy still facing a slow recovery from the recent recession, it is imperative leaders in Washington act now to help address the problem of veterans’ unemployment. The current unemployment rate for veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars is at 13.3 percent, well above the national average of 9 percent. Unfortunately, this number is expected to increase as more servicemen and women return home with the winding down of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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