Veterans deserve to find civilian jobs


by Sen. Jon Tester

Since arriving in the Senate, I have been squarely focused on getting veterans back to work. The unemployment rate for America’s younger veterans remains well above the national average, and that is a national disgrace. Many of these men and women have served multiple tours overseas and have put their lives on the line in some of the harshest conditions imaginable. Now they return home to an increasingly competitive job market and many of them can’t find meaningful work. We owe them better.

That is why I created the VOW to Hire Heroes Act, which passed Congress with unanimous support and was signed into law late last year. This law is the most significant piece of veterans’ jobs legislation to pass in three years, and it was the only jobs bill signed into law last year.

This new law will put our nation’s veterans back to work through better job skills training and improved federal hiring practices. The VOW to Hire Heroes Act will also require the federal government to take an in-depth look at what military skills and training can translate into the civilian sector. For example, if a soldier has experience driving heavy-duty trucks in Iraq, that experience should count toward a commercial drivers license here at home. This bill makes it easier for veterans to get the certification and licenses they need to find work. When they return home, they should be able to market these skills more effectively with civilian employers, and they shouldn’t have to navigate through extensive and burdensome paperwork and training that simply validates the skills they already have.

The VOW to Hire Heroes Act also makes the Transitional Assistance Program mandatory for most service members transitioning out of the military. This program provides veterans with career counseling and resume writing skills, and helps better prepare them for the civilian job market. This new law also gives service members the opportunity to begin the federal employment process prior to leaving the military – facilitating a more seamless transition for those seeking jobs within the federal government. And to help the more than 100,000 unemployed veterans of past wars better qualify for jobs in high-demand sectors, it will provide up to one year of additional GI Bill benefits.

Montana has more veterans per capita than any state in the nation except Alaska. More than 100,000 veterans call Montana home. Putting these folks back to work is important to their families and friends, it is important to their communities, and it is important to me. As Montana’s only member of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I will continue doing everything I can to put these heroic men and women back work. They deserve nothing less.

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., serves on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.