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A program in which veterans would volunteer to help active-duty members make the transition to civilian life has moved a step closer to reality with the Senate's March 26 vote to more than triple the number of national service jobs.
The bill, HR 1388, authorizes a new Veterans' Corps, whose success would be measured by the number of veterans who are helped to go to college or find jobs, the number of military families provided assistance, and the number of homeless veterans who find housing.
The Senate approved the bill on a 79-19 vote, and retitled the measure the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act so it would carry the name of the Massachusetts Democratic senator whose family has long been involved in national service programs.
The House of Representatives passed the bill, which it called the Generations Invigorating Volunteerism and Education Act, or GIVE Act, on March 18 by a 321-105 vote.
Differences between the House and Senate versions must be worked out before a final bill passes. Work on the bill has close attention from the White House because President Barack Obama is among those advocating a substantial expansion of AmeriCorps and other national service programs. During his presidential campaign, Obama pushed the idea of getting newly separated veterans to volunteer for national service programs, including things like the Veterans' Corps.
In most cases, the volunteers in the Veterans' Corps won't find or build the housing, provide the jobs or job training or directly assist military families. Instead, Veterans' Corps members would be coordinators — working with state and local agencies and private groups to provide services and assistance to current and former service members and their families.
Veterans' Corps is one of several new initiatives created by the bill. Others include the Education Corps, the Healthy Futures Corps, the Clean Energy Corps and the Opportunity Corps.
The new groups are part of the bill's effort to greatly expand national service programs. There would be about 88,000 national service positions in 2010 but 250,000 positions by 2017.
National service programs usually pay a small living expense plus an end-of-service stipend that can be used to pay for college or other purposes.