Being a Voice for Our Veterans

We've asked a tremendous amount of the brave men and women serving our country in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many of them have been deployed on tour after tour, away from their homes and families for years at a time and their service has taken a toll. Now, as our brave young men and women come home from war, we owe them as much support and guidance as we can provide to make their transition back into civilian life is as smooth as possible. While we can't begin to repay the debt we owe our veterans for their brave service, we can certainly take steps to ease the physical, psychological and financial hardships they may be experiencing.

As I say in the new ad my campaign has released this week, one of the reasons I first ran for Congress was to be a voice for our veterans and I've continued to fight for the brave men and women who've served our country as US Senator. You can watch the ad below:

From rising unemployment to an increase in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), men and women returning home from Afghanistan and Iraq deserve new solutions to the challenges they face. That's why I have proposed a number of legislative remedies to help our veterans transition back into civilian life.

First we must address the sky high unemployment rate among young veterans.

In New York alone, nearly 20 percent of veterans under the age of 30 -- and more than 7 percent of all veterans across our state -- are unemployed.

To help incentivize the hiring of young veterans, last year we established the Work Opportunity Tax Credit. Under this tax credit, businesses that hire a recent veteran may write off 40 percent of the first $6,000 paid to that vet (who must be out of the service for no more than five years.) This tax credit is set to expire at the end of the year; I want to make it permanent.

Next, it's crucial that we address the physical and psychological toll war has taken on so many of our veterans.

A recent Stanford University study estimates that up to 35% of our Iraq veterans will be afflicted with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and/or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Yet so often, these illnesses go undiagnosed and untreated in the weeks, months and years after our servicemen and women return from Afghanistan and Iraq.

That's why I have offered a series of proposals that will increase coordination between the Departments of Defense and the Veterans Administration, enhance screening, improve access to mental health providers and address the stigma associated with mental health treatment for our brave men and women both while they are serving and once they return home.

Please watch this video of Josh Kaplan, a young veteran I recently had the pleasure of meeting. Josh puts a human face on the challenges our young veterans are facing as they return to civilian life. I am proud to have his support.

There is no greater call to service than that of our brave men and women who serve our country in combat across the globe. It's imperative that we remember to pay honor to their bravery and make their transition to civilian life upon their return from combat as smooth and successful as possible. It's the least we should do for those who have suffered injury or financial hardship as a result of serving our nation.