Before delivering his “blistering” speech today at Brown University, John Kerry held a field hearing at Boston College in Chestnut Hill, Mass., on the impact of deployments on National Guard and Reservists who own or work for small businesses. This issue is one that Kerry has been very vocal about for some time. I have posted other pieces on this here, here and here.
A key issue discussed at the hearing was Kerry’s Military Family Bill of Rights, a bill that includes comprehensive and direct assistance for military members and their families, including loans, grants and tax credits for Guard and Reserve members who own their own small businesses or work for one.
“The repeated and lengthy call-ups of our Guard and Reserve troops are putting a tremendous financial strain on military families in Massachusetts, the Gulf region and across the country. Too often, our troops have to surrender part of their income to serve, and too often, small businesses struggle to absorb the loss of an employee. They should be able to rest assured that when they return from Iraq and Afghanistan, their homes and their jobs will be waiting for them,” Kerry said. “Congress can choose to talk about helping military families or it can actually do something to help them. I’m trying to get Congress to put its money where its mouth is. For a lot of these guys, it’s just been too much hollow rhetoric.”
At the hearing, Kerry heard from Sam Poulten, a partner at ERA Morrison Real Estate, a part-time teacher at Waltham High School and a colonel in the Army Reserves who served in Iraq for 10 and a half months. Also testifying was Ken Forchielli, State Chair of the Massachusetts Committee for the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve — a Department of Defense volunteer organization; Marshall Hanson, Legislative Director of the Reserve Officers Association; and, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, Director of the Congressional Budget Office, which recently conducted a study on reservists and their small business employers.
The hearing, called “Military Reservists and Small Business: Supporting our Military Families and their Patriotic Small Business Employers,” was held to coincide with the four-year anniversary of when the first National Guard and Reserve units were called up to fight in the war on terror, and later in Iraq. Since then over 342,000 citizen soldiers have been mobilized. Today over 145,000 remain on active duty. The General Accounting Office reports that more than 40 percent suffer a pay cut when they are mobilized.
Last week, the Senate passed a modified version of a key part of Kerry’s Military Family Bill of Rights legislation that provides a tax credit to employers in the Gulf Coast impacted by Katrina who pay reservists that are called to duty in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Gulf Coast or elsewhere.
“I will keep fighting to pass as much of my Military Family Bill of Rights as possible,” Kerry added. “It’s easy to talk about supporting the troops, now I’m going to challenge Washington to support the troops where it counts by providing a real Military Family’s Bill of Rights.”