The following was provided by State Rep. Paul Brodeur:
This Veterans Day, Elizabeth Hart will be giving out suits to veterans free of charge at an event called Suits for Veteran Success. Hart is the founder of the non-profit organization, Tailored for Success, Inc. Based in Malden, Tailored for Success serves the career needs of economically disadvantaged women, men, and at-risk teens living in our communities. The organization provides free interview clothing, professional image consulting, interview coaching, and career development workshops to help folks get jobs in this tough economy. Elizabeth Hart and Tailored for Success are performing a great service for our Massachusetts veterans.
The numbers are compelling. There are 385,000 veterans in Massachusetts. Of those, 37,000 are veterans of Iraq or Afghanistan. Soldiers face multiple deployments, job disruptions, and family challenges. In addition, recent studies of returning service members demonstrated high rates of PTSD and other trauma.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, there are between 529,000 and 840,000 homeless veterans at some point during the year. On any given night, 300,000 veterans are living in a shelter or on the streets. 33% of homeless men are veterans. And the risk of woman veterans becoming homeless is four times greater than that of men.
Many veterans return home to find an infrastructure that doesn’t support them. They return with physical and mental issues from combat. They return to civilian life after experiencing something so few can understand. Some return with diminished prospects for the future because they do not know how to put their military skills and experience to use in the civilian economy.
These are problems that can be solved. Here in Massachusetts, we have the most generous package of benefits in the country for veterans, but we recognized the need to do more. On May 31 of this year, Governor Patrick signed into law Senate Bill 2254, also known as the VALOR Act. The bill creates support for veteran-owned businesses, military children, and aims to provide better access to higher education. The bill was a collaborative effort between the legislature, the Department of Veterans’ Services, and the Governor’s office.
The VALOR Act provides the kind of support veterans and currently-serving soldiers deserve. It allows children in military families to transfer between school districts and states more easily. It expands the Military Relief Fund, a fund that lowers the cost of food, housing, and medical services for the Massachusetts National Guard, reserve service members, and their families.
It calls for the state Board of Education to require every public institution of higher education to create a set of policies for evaluating military training and coursework. By March 1, 2013, every public university in the state will have developed a way to accept veterans without them having to start over. The VALOR Act passed unanimously in both houses of the legislature. This is not a political issue, but a moral one.
The fact of the matter is that these men and women are willing to die for their country. All the usual clichés apply because all the usual clichés are true. No matter what you may feel about war, the men and women who fight in it are tremendously brave. They deserve our respect and thanks. They and their families also deserve our support while they are deployed and when they return home.
All service members take an oath to serve and they and their families make tremendous sacrifices to fulfill that pledge. As a state and as a country, we will keep our promise to them. Whether it’s legislation like the VALOR Act or organizations like Tailored for Success, Massachusetts is doing its absolute best to repay an enormous debt. This Veterans Day and throughout the year, take a moment to reflect on their service, look for ways to honor their sacrifice, and whenever the opportunity arises, thank them personally for their commitment to our country’s freedom.
For more information about Tailored for Success, Inc. and their Suits for Veteran Success event (including how to volunteer or otherwise support the organization), please call 781-324-0499.