WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Roger F. Wicker, R-Miss., ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, today participated in a joint committee hearing with the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee examining military to civilian transitions for service members.
In his opening remarks, Wicker noted that successful outcomes continue to be significant for veterans after their military careers as they acquire key skills during their service.
“There are improvements that need to be made in our veterans’ experience and our military experience, but the truth is that the vast majority of our military veterans are highly successful in their post-military careers and personal lives,” Wicker said.
Wicker also discussed how Congress can maintain support effective veteran transition programming through legislation.
“Congress has capitalized on that momentum. We have identified the success of these transition programs and expanded these opportunities,” Wicker said. “The Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act required broad reforms to make the Transition Assistance Program even stronger. Today, we will find out if we can improve on that. Congress must keep faith with our veterans through these initiatives, which I will continue to support.”
Read Senator Wicker’s full opening statement below or watch it here.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And I’m glad to be here today joining with three of my distinguished colleagues. I’m particularly proud that I share a leadership role on the Armed Services Committee with a fellow veteran, Senator Jack Reed. His career in the military is far more distinguished than mine, but I’m proud to be a veteran, proud to have served, and proud to be here with three very distinguished supporters of our military and our veterans’ community.
There are improvements that need to be made in our veterans’ experience and our military experience, but the truth is that the vast majority of our military veterans are highly successful in their post-military careers and personal lives. And I do appreciate Chairman Reed making that point and making the very positive point about military service during the active duty time and as a veteran.
As our economy struggles with inflation and rising interest rates, reporting from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that veterans and their families have consistently achieved higher standards of living than non-veterans. This is over the past 40 years.
The veteran unemployment rate is lower than the non-veteran unemployment rate. Both can be improved, but that is a significant statistic. This has been true nearly every month since January 2003, when the Bureau of Labor Statistics began tracking this information. This impressive fact is no surprise to those of us who understand how valuable veterans are to civilian employers.
Between 2005 and 2015, a recent study from the University of Akron found that military veterans earned higher average wages than non-veterans.
These facts demonstrate what those of us in the military community have known for years: Most veterans are doing well. The skills and character we developed during our time in service lead to desirable outcomes. Our witnesses should be congratulated for the superb work that they and their Departments have been doing in this area over the past decades.
Our veterans show that joining the military is a great way to improve future career and life prospects. This is true regardless of sex, race, or national origin. As I have said, and echoing others, the United States military is the greatest civil rights program in history.
The success of veterans from minority communities proves this. Researchers studied households headed by racial or ethnic minorities with low education experience. In that study, researchers found that households headed by veterans had significantly higher standards of living than those headed by non-veterans. And in 2017, the median annual incomes of black and Hispanic veteran households were more than $20,000 higher than those of minority non-veteran households.
So as you can see, I am not only proud to be a veteran, I support military service and encourage many young Americans to follow this type of service. We have also learned that effective pre-separation transition programs are helping to prepare service members for life after their military careers.
The programs set these veterans up for civilian life, and their communities notice their success. In particular, young Americans see that military service can have very positive effects. This helps recruiting efforts. In this way, these transition programs act as a force multiplier.
The Transition Assistance Program has been operating for just over thirty years. But it has a lot to show from that relatively brief tenure. Today, it supports around 200,000 service members every year.
Congress has capitalized on that momentum. We have identified the success of these transition programs and expanded these opportunities. The Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act required broad reforms to make the Transition Assistance Program even stronger. Today, we will find out if we can improve on that.
Congress must keep faith with our veterans through these initiatives, which I will continue to support. I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today about their efforts to execute these transition programs. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.