Greg Walden: Ideas to assist returning troops

Walden helps lead effort to ease transition home for Oregon National Guard troops
Congressman Greg Walden,

WASHINGTON, D.C. “” Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) co-sponsored the Troops’ Soft Landing, Employment, and Rural Transportation Act (H.R. 3358), which would assist National Guard troops returning home from service abroad and to improve access to health care services for veterans.

Similar legislation was introduced earlier this year by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), and the House effort has the support of the entire Oregon delegation, including bill sponsor Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.). Earlier this year, 2,700 National Guard troops deployed from Oregon, the largest deployment of National Guard troops from Oregon since World War II. This legislation will help reintegrate these brave Oregonians into civilian life when they come home. “With Oregon National Guard troops just having deployed again to Iraq, the support system created by this legislation would greatly assist their transition home and back into civilian life,” Walden said. “While progress has been made with the opening of new veterans’ health clinics in central, southern and eastern Oregon, the establishment of a grant program to assist in providing transportation for rural veterans will help ensure that we provide our veterans the best health care as close to home as possible.”

“During a summer of intense partisan debate in the nation’s capital, it’s heartening to know that the entire Oregon delegation can come together to stand behind a worthy effort like improving benefits for our National Guard troops when they return home,” Walden said.

The legislation includes three important initiatives:

1. Soft Landing for National Guard and Reserve Members: Currently Guard and Reserve troops have only a few days to readjust before their active duty benefits expire and they are expected to return to civilian life. The legislation allows them to remain on active duty for up to 90 days, collect pay, and access reintegration services. The bill also provides counseling for those 90 days.

2. Expansion of Work Opportunity Tax Credit for Veterans: Under current law, employers can receive a tax credit worth up to $2,400 for hiring a veteran who works at least 10 weeks full time. This legislation expands the tax credit to $5,000 if the veteran is from a county with 12 percent or greater unemployment in the last six months and works 20 weeks full time. Oregon is currently struggling from the third worst unemployment rate in the nation and this tax credit will benefit both veterans and small businesses.

Counties in the Second District with unemployment rates above 12 percent include: Crook, Harney, Deschutes, Jefferson, Klamath, Josephine, Grant, Jackson, Wallowa, Union, and Lake.

3. Rural Transportation Grants for Veterans: In rural communities across the nation, veterans rely on the generosity of family, friends, and veterans service organizations to transport them to VA facilities for their appointments. The bill authorizes the VA to establish a grant program to help provide transportation for rural veterans.

Representative Greg Walden represents Oregon’s Second Congressional District, which is comprised of 20 counties in eastern, southern, and central Oregon. He is a member of the Committee on Energy and Commerce and the ranking member of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.