Senators push for better job training for service members


by Larry Shaughnessy

Washington (CNN) — When American troops finally leave the military, they face a whole new battle: finding a job.

"We have invested billions of dollars in training our young men and women with new skills to protect our nation, only to ignore that investment and them when they leave the military," Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, told reporters Wednesday at a news conference. "We have an unemployment rate of over 27% of young veterans coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan."

"Those who return home can and should be the backbone of our revitalization of the economy of this county," said Sen. Chris Coons, D-Delaware.

"This legislation is going to ease the transition between military service and the civilian work force and it is the responsible thing to do," said Sen. John Tester, D-Montana.

In spite of recruiting pitches from the Defense Department that make joining the armed forces sound like a great way to get the training and experience needed for a career in the civilian world, veterans are finding that making the transition to a civilian career is very difficult.

"I served in the U.S. Navy as a hospital corpsman for 5 1/2 years. During my tours I gained valuable experience in the medical field under extreme conditions. Despite my knowledge and service, I am struggling to find a job today and I'm not alone," said Eric Smith, a Navy veteran from Baltimore. He said his biggest problem was that none of the medical training he got in the military counted toward being certified as a civilian paramedic or nurse.

That's one issue that Murray's new bill would address if passed into law.

"The bill will also require the Department of Labor to take a hard look at what military skills and training should be translatable into the civilian sector, and will work to make it simpler to get the licenses and certification our veterans need," Murray said.

The bill would require broad job skills training for every service member as they leave the military. "Today almost one-third of those leaving the army don't get that training," Murray said.

And since the federal government is the major employer of former service members, it calls for starting the long, involved bureaucratic process of applying for federal jobs even before leaving the military.

So far the bill has not made it to the Senate floor yet, nor is there a matching bill in the House.