By Adam Kinzinger
U.S. Representative, IL-16
On this Veterans Day, I hope you will join me and honor our veterans who have given so much for our country. In every conflict, they have answered the call to service, sacrifice and commitment. In doing so, we have a remained a free nation.
After courageously fighting to uphold our values and principles, it is crucial that our nation prioritize our service members by facilitating a smooth transition for veterans. While post-September 11 unemployment rates for veterans have gone down considerably, there are still barriers for veterans who are returning from Iraq and Afghanistan that are seeking a job.
All too often, veterans are well-qualified for civilian jobs, but face obstacles in meeting the civilian requirements. For example, military-trained medics are required to take classes they have already completed in the military to satisfy the current civilian licensure system, needlessly delaying their entry into the civilian workforce of emergency medic technicians (EMTs). That is why I reintroduced a bipartisan bill that would help states streamline their licensure requirements so these battle-tested and well trained military medics can find jobs as civilian EMTs. Many other skill areas are taught to our soldiers, sailors, and airmen that have similar applications in the civilian workplace, but there is no system in place to facilitate the wide-range of training learned during their time in service to the private sector.
In addition to helping our veterans re-enter the workforce, we need to take care of those who suffer from mental health issues and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The staggering reality is that the annual suicide rate of veterans is roughly 50 percent higher than the rate among other civilians with similar demographic characteristics. I was proud to support the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act, bipartisan legislation that will help ensure that resources are available to help prevent these tragedies. While this is progress, we still have a long way to go.
As a Member of Congress, I work every day to ensure that policies coming out of Washington are taking care of our military men and women – including simplifying their transition to civilian life, improving mental health care services, and by ensuring the Department of Veterans Affairs can adequately provide the volume and quality of care that our veterans deserve.
Similarly, I am pleased to support legislation that creates new opportunities for our veterans and their families. I also believe we must continue to work to protect our veterans’ personal information and help those veterans who are most in need. That is why I have voted for bills that incentivize businesses to hire veterans and that make veteran small business ownership easier. Additionally, I supported legislation that provides a solution to streamline veteran identification, making it easier for veterans to get the services they need and better protecting them from identity theft, and enhances the government’s initiative to end veteran homelessness.
Our country owes a great debt to our veterans, and I am committed to doing anything I can to ensure that veterans receive the most successful and effective care they more than deserve. My staff and I are here to help any veterans or current service members with their needs and questions regarding the Department of Defense or Department of Veterans Affairs. If you or a loved one are a veteran having trouble with a VA disability claim, an issue with receiving service medals, or any other related problem, please don’t hesitate to contact my district office at 815-431-9271. We will do everything we can to help each of our constituents.
I remain committed to supporting those who have already given so much and will continue to fight to ensure the men and women who have served, those who are actively serving, and their families receive the care they deserve. To do anything less would dishonor their service and sacrifice.
A veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan wars, Congressman Adam Kinzinger represents Illinois’ 16th Congressional District. In 2003, Kinzinger joined the United States Air Force and has served in the Air Force Special Operations Command, Air Combat Command, Air Mobility Command, and Air National Guard. Kinzinger continues to serve his country as a pilot in the Air National Guard.