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November 9, 2011

Better Serving Those Who Have Served

This Veterans Day holds special significance. The war in Iraq is coming to a close this year, and we have already started drawing down combat troops in Afghanistan.

Many of that bravest 1 percent of Americans who shoulder 100 percent of the responsibility of keeping our country safe will be coming home.  As this influx of service members returns to their families, and many transition back to civilian life, we need to be ready to make good on the promises we’ve made to all who serve and their families. 

To make that happen, I asked leaders from our veterans community to make recommendations on how to make Colorado the best state for veterans, service members, and their families to live and work.  After months of thoughtful conversation, they produced a comprehensive report – Better Serving Those Who Have Served – that offers thoughtful solutions on how to address the challenges facing America’s veterans.

The report outlines several actions we can take on the local, state and federal levels to address these challenges, including:

  • Improving Collaboration between Public and Private Resources
  • Putting Our Warriors to Work
  • Providing Easy and Efficient Access to Earned Benefits
  • Ending Veteran Homelessness and Addressing Veteran Foreclosure
  • Improving Awareness and Addressing the Mental Scars from Combat
  • Raising Awareness and Educating Communities and Families

A key part of this report is a new proposal to create a National Veterans Foundation modeled after work being done in Colorado Springs that enables public and private agencies to better coordinate the work they’re doing to support America’s veterans and military families. And right now, that work is more important than ever.  

Last year, the unemployment rate hit 21.1 percent for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans between the ages of 18 and 24.  Veterans are three times more likely to commit suicide than the general population, and veterans are estimated to represent 25 percent of all of the homeless in the United States. Veterans of previous wars continue to battle long benefits delays due to bureaucratic overload, inefficiency and inaccuracy.

To put it simply: we need to be ready for our service members coming home, and do a better job serving the veterans already here. This Veterans Day and beyond, let’s work together to fulfill our obligation to the brave men and women who have served our nation.

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