11/11/2011 01:39 pm ET | Updated Jan 11, 2012

Fighting for our Heroes Once They Return Home

As we celebrate Veteran's Day today, I hope that all Americans will take a moment to reflect on the brave sacrifices our veterans have made to protect our country. The brave men and women who have served -- and those who continue to serve -- our armed forces have selflessly sacrificed for our nation and we owe it to them to provide the best services and protections available when they're overseas, and after they return home.

From the first day I ran for Congress, I have tried to serve as a voice for our veterans and servicemembers. This week, with the passage of the VOW to Hire Veterans Act, the Senate took an important step forward towards solving the jobs crisis for our servicemembers returning home. And as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I announced new initiatives that would strengthen the benefits available to those who serve in our National Guard and Reserves.

Those who serve in the National Guard and Reserves often fight shoulder to shoulder with our active duty troops in battle, yet upon their return home, do not have the same access to benefits and protections such as financial counseling, job protections and health care. This is wrong. When they return home from serving our country, our National Guard and Reserve members shouldn't have to be confronted with red tape in order to access the benefits they've earned fighting for our country.

My plan would strengthen civilian job protections for deployed Guard members, it would provide family and financial counseling services for Guard and Reserve members and their families, and would expand access to mental health services for Guard and Reserve members.

I'm particularly concerned about our National Guard members being able to retain their jobs once they return from service. Currently, there is a 5-year limit on civilian job protection for our servicemen and women, which active duty military are exempted from. Now that we've seen unprecedented numbers of our National Guard serve multiple deployments, it's simply unfair to hold them to this time limit. My legislation would give National Guard members the same guaranteed civilian job protections that our active duty servicemembers enjoy.

We must do everything we can to help our servicemembers and veterans transition into civilian life once they return home and that means preparing them for the tough job market. The unemployment rate of our returning young veterans is well above the national unemployment rate and is a true crisis. That's why I'm extremely pleased that President Obama is addressing this issue head on, including tax credits for businesses that hire returning veterans in his VOW to Hire Heroes Act. It's something I've been pushing for in the Senate and I am hopeful we can get it passed in both Houses soon.

I truly believe that the VOW to Hire Heroes Act, as well as my National Guard and Reservist job protection initiative, will go a long way toward repaying the debt of gratitude we owe those who serve our country at home and abroad. On this Veterans Day, let's commit as a nation to making sure that when our brave servicemembers return home, that they are prepared for the job market and supported by businesses ready to hire them so that their transition back to civilian life is as smooth as possible.