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Column: Keeping our commitment to our veterans

Don Davis/ State Capitol Bureau U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., takes a front-row position in cheering on Minnesota union workers as they shouted their support for Wisconsin state workers.

WASHINGTON -- After World War II, with millions of American GI's returning home, President Harry Truman appointed Gen. Omar Bradley to run the Veterans Administration. Bradley was a popular choice, and his steely approach to helping veterans was widely admired.

"We are dealing with veterans, not procedures; with their problems, not ours," Bradley famously said.

You'll find the same kind of commitment to today's generation of veterans in the Congressional Veterans Jobs Caucus, a bipartisan group of 38 senators and 48 representatives brought together by the joblessness crisis among our returning military heroes.

More than two million Americans have served our nation in Iraq, Afghanistan and other post 9/11 missions around the world. Now, as these men and women return home, they are confronting yet another challenge -- finding a job.

Unemployment among younger veterans has reached staggering proportions, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Nearly one-third of all veterans aged 18-24 -- and more than half of female veterans in that range -- are unemployed.

When the courageous Americans who volunteer to fight our wars come home, they should not have to fight for jobs. That's why for more than a year the Congressional Veterans Jobs Caucus has worked to bring the public and private sectors together -- to end the veterans' unemployment crisis.

The Caucus is the new Yellow Ribbon homecoming for the men and women who are returning home from the longest war in the history of our country.

Last week we kicked off the Caucus' activities for the 113th Congress with a "Day on the Hill," highlighting our work on behalf of veterans employment and showcasing our "I Hire Veterans" program.

Not only will we be inviting more members of Congress to join our Caucus ranks, we'll also be enlisting other businesses to join our eight corporate partners and their goal of hiring 200,000 veterans over the next five years.

We're leading by example. We're hiring veterans to work in our Senate and House offices. We proudly display the "I Hire Veterans" logo in our offices and ask businesses to do the same.

Congress has already taken significant steps to prepare veterans for life after the military. The post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008, Veterans Skills to Jobs Act, and VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2012 are providing education services, job counseling and training.

Our military is holding workshops on how to write effective resumes and cover letters, and how to succeed in job interviews.

Federal agencies, including the Department of Veterans Affairs, along with veterans service organizations and state and local governments are helping veterans get their job and education benefits without delay.

But the unemployment numbers don't lie -- there's much more to do.

With more than 250,000 servicemen and women expected to re-enter civilian life each year over the next five years, veterans' employment issues will only grow more challenging.

The same is true for National Guardsmen and reservists coming home from a decade of repeated deployments that, in many cases, interrupted or delayed jobs and school. Many are just now realizing how difficult it is to resume a career after months overseas.

These men and women are masters of their professions. Their training is unequalled, their experience unparalleled. The qualities they bring to the job -- leadership, teamwork, commitment and trust -- are qualities every American business can use today.

In establishing the Congressional Veterans Jobs Caucus, we have provided a unique opportunity not only for members of Congress to set aside political differences to help our vets, but also for businesses everywhere to stand with those who kept this nation safe and free.

It's not always easy to come home from war. But the homecoming will be easier if we do our part and make sure our veterans come home to a job.

After all, as General Bradley said, we are dealing with veterans, not procedures; with their problems, not ours.