The Department of Defense committed more than $2.1 million for an extension of a Vermont National Guard outreach program to help veterans returning from deployments in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Sen. Bernie Sanders first secured funding for this innovative program in 2006.
The program provides Guard families access to health care services, marriage and financial counseling, substance abuse treatment and other services that are critically important to Guard members returning from deployments. The new funding will extend the program for one year.
“When our soldiers come home from Iraq and Afghanistan it is important that we do everything that we can to protect them and their families and ease their transition back into civilian life,” Bernie said, noting roughly 1,500 Vermont National Guard members recently returned home from a one-year deployment in Afghanistan. “I am proud that the Vermont outreach program has become a model for the nation and that we are able to continue to fund it.”
With continued funding in jeopardy, Bernie inserted a provision into a Pentagon appropriations bill that designated $16 million for Vermont and seven other states. He worked with the Vermont congressional delegation to build bipartisan support and successfully asked the Pentagon to use the funds to continue the outreach program.
Bernie has also co-sponsored legislation that helps veterans who are struggling to find work and addresses rising unemployment among our veterans.
The Hiring Heroes Act of 2011, introduced by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), requires broad job skills training for all service members returning home and comes at a time when more than one in four veterans, who are 20 to 24 years old, are unemployed. In addition to requiring each separating service member to attend a transition assistance program, the bill also creates new direct federal hiring authority so more service members have jobs waiting for them the day they leave the military.