A group of state representatives who have served in the U.S. military announced Thursday the formation of a new, bipartisan, legislative caucus that will focus on issues affecting Arizona veterans.
"We took an oath to defend our constitution and our main obligation was to ourselves, to our brothers in arms and we feel that we should continue that tradition today as we did back then," says state Rep. Sony Borrelli, Lake Havasu City Republican.
The lawmakers will work with veterans groups and other organizations to help vets with employment, education, mental health and other services.
"It is difficult, and plus, mental health issues typically don't surface until roughly two years after you return. And I was actually seen for mental health issues by the VA, and it's hard to admit and that's one of the stigmas out there. That we understand that it happens and we want to help other veterans overcome it," says state Rep. Mark Cardenas, Phoenix Democrat.
The goal is to help vets overcome obstacles as they transition back into civilian life from military life.
"if we don't help them get their lives together, get them stabilized we will end up paying for it one way or the other on a societal level. I think you know it's horrible when we do abandon veterans because they do everything, but on a fiscal level they end up becoming extremely expensive because they become homeless and on drugs because they self-medicate themselves to deal with the problems that occur, that they're having with PTSD for example," says state Rep. Ruben Gallego, Phoenix Democrat.
"We want to help bridge the gap for the veterans that are returning that are seeking employment, starting small businesses there's a lot of challenges and us as veterans have a lot of work cut out for us," says Melissa Lange, Southwest Veterans Chamber of Commerce.
Nationwide, the unemployment rate for men and women who served in the Middle East was at nearly 11-percent last month.
"We have a lot of returning veterans that are coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan. we need to support those young men and women because they have given a lot of their life to make sure that we stay free and that we stay safe in our environment here," says Terry Araman, Madison Street Veterans Association.