On July 12, 2013, a bill protecting current and former service members from discrimination in housing and employment was introduced in the House and Senate. American Veterans (AMVETS) national executive director Stewart Hickey voiced his approval of Congressional leaders for introducing H.R. 2654 and S. 1281, “the Veterans and Servicemembers Employment Rights and Housing Act”. This bill’s introduction is followed by more than a year of intense campaigning on Capitol Hill by AMVETS to combat veteran discrimination. The bill would build on legal and financial protections already in law.
Mr Hinckley stated “We are excited to see this bill introduced and are committed to continuing the fight against veterans employment and housing discrimination, We are thankful to Senator Blumenthal and Representative Kilmer for their sponsorship of this important legislation.”
The new bill will give many veterans and servicemembers the same protected status as other groups that are currently protected. This is in an effort to prevent discrimination on the basis of military service or veteran status. Under this new bill, veterans and servicemembers facing discrimination would be able to appeal their cases to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Another positive effect of the bill would be that the Fair Housing Act would be amended to add military status as being protected under the law for servicemembers or veterans who want to rent or purchase a home. Senator Richard Blumenthal,a democratic representative from Connecticut, who is one of the chief sponsors of the Senate version, S 1281, believes the bill will greatly benefit veterans who are transitioning.
“Shamefully, veterans who served our country return from deployment and too often struggle to find a job or a place to call home,” Senator Blumenthal, said. “By making military service a protected status, this bill will ensure that those who sacrificed to keep us safe are not discriminated against when they return home.”
Representative Derek Kilmer, who is one of the Democratic representatives from Washington who also believes it necessary to legally protect veterans against discrimination. As a chief sponsor of the House version of the bill, HR 2654, he stated that it is a response to complaints he has received from servicemembers and veterans about being denied housing and turned down for jobs solely because of their military service.
“If you fight for our country, you shouldn’t have to fight for a job when you come home,” said Kilmer. “I’ve worked with a coalition of veterans from all generations to fight for our servicemembers and veterans at the state level and now I’m proud to work at the federal level to ensure that military status isn’t used against anyone looking for a home or job. I look forward to working with Senator Blumenthal, Representative Renacci, and Representative Duckworth on this important issue.”
There is already a federal law in place called the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, which already prohibits discrimination in hiring for veterans, but the bill does not specifically cover current service members looking for part-time jobs. Servicemembers and veterans also are not a specifically protected class under federal housing discrimination laws.
Veterans of Foreign Wars, AMVETS and the National Guard Association of the United States have all endorsed the bill. Yet the organization really responsible for the implementation of this bill is AMVETS. AMVETS has been active since 1944 in preserving the freedoms of our nations many veterans, AMVETS provides support for veterans and the active military in procuring their entitlements, as well as community service and legislative reform that enhances the quality of life for this nation’s citizens and veterans alike. AMVETS is one of the largest congressionally-chartered veterans’ service organizations in the United States, and includes members from each branch of the military, including the National Guard and Reserves.
As we as a nation work hard to keep veterans from being discriminated against in the job and housing market, we can more effectively create an atmosphere that can solve many of the other issues that surround veterans. It is the opinion of the author that an employer has a right to offer or deny employment to anyone, but they should be considered based on their qualifications, not because of race, religion, or military service history.