Sen. Ron Wyden and Rep. Kurt Schrader are doing their part to make sure that the 2,700 Oregon soldiers scheduled to return soon from Iraq will have jobs waiting for them at home.
Wyden recently spoke to some veterans via video from the Anderson Readiness Center in Salem, noting that job-finding assistance is part of a bigger package that will include medical care and mental counseling at centers closer to home, as well as education opportunities.
"Everything else flows from the ability to get a good job and be able to support your family," he said. "Congressman Schrader and I feel strongly this is what each of you is owed."
Oregon has one of the oldest programs that helps soldiers make the transition back to civilian life. The program, which began in February 2005, has received limited federal assistance. However, Schrader and Wyden have secured $960,000 in the military appropriations bill for it.
Under the extended effort to help veterans, the program will be re-dubbed "Fort Oregon."
"It's a program that's working very well," Schrader said. "We want to make sure we stay the top state in the country for reintegration, especially with this large a group coming back."
Wyden also is pushing for "soft landing" legislation, which would allow veterans to take more transition time between departure from a war zone and re-entry into civilian life. The legislation would increase the transition time from 10 or 14 days to 90 days.
Wyden's effort to help veterans find jobs began after he visited Iraq in March 2006 and December 2009 with Sen. Jeff Merkley.
"The most important piece of what you and your families have said to us is finding good jobs when you come home," Wyden said. "The percentage of people right now who don't have jobs coming back is just too high."