Senators to unveil bill to help veterans find jobs

The Hill

by Vicki Needham

Several Senate Democrats will unveil legislation Wednesday designed to help veterans find jobs after leaving the military.

The measure — sponsored by Senate Veterans Affairs Chairwoman Patty Murray (Wash.) and Sens. Jon Tester (Mont.), Chris Coons (Del.) and Mark Begich (Alaska) — comes in response to continued high levels of unemployment among former service members.

“For too long we have invested billions of dollars in training our young men and women in uniform with new skills to protect our nation, only to pat them on the back after their service and push them out into the job market alone,” Murray said. "For the first time, this bill will require that our service members get the training they need to translate the skills they learned in the military into the working world."

While the national unemployment rate increased to 9 percent in April, the jobless rate for veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan remained unchanged at 10.9 percent. Among male veterans, the unemployment rate was 11.7 percent, up from 11.6 percent in March.

The jobless rate for veterans between the age of 20 and 24 has been as high as 27 percent.

The jointly sponsored bill would modify federal hiring practices to encourage the hiring of veterans and to begin the process before leaving the service.

The bill also would require mandatory participation in the Transition Assistance Program and require the Labor Department to meet with veterans to determine their employment status and if they need assistance.

In addition, the measure continues a program that provides rehabilitation and vocational benefits to severely wounded service members, provides up to an additional 24 months of vocational rehabilitation and employment services to veterans who have exhausted these and state-provided unemployment benefits, and requires the Veterans Affairs Department to meet periodically with veterans who have participated in its vocational rehabilitation program to determine employment status.

The measure has seven other co-sponsors including one Republican —  Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.).

Sens. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) and Scott Brown (R-Mass.) are co-sponsoring a bill, introduced in February, also aimed at helping unemployed veterans that would extend the work opportunity tax credit to include members of the National Guard and Ready Reserve and would make the credit permanent for veterans.

“While the continued national job growth numbers are certainly good news, we must ensure that our returning veterans are not left behind," Hagan said.
The bill also would:

• Authorize new programs aimed at improving the transition from service member to civilian employee.

• Create a competitive grant program for nonprofit organizations that provide mentorship and job training programs that are designed to lead to job placements.

• Require the Defense, Labor and Veterans departments to jointly contract for a study to identify equivalent positions between military and civilian jobs.

• Allow the Defense Department to create a pilot program to provide paid work experience with civilian employees and contractors to facilitate the transition for service members that are 180 days from separating.

• Require Defense, Labor and Veterans departments to work together to eliminate barriers between military training and civilian licensure or credentialing for several military occupational specialties.