Tester pushes officials on more steps to fight veterans’ unemployment

In hearing, Deputy VA Secretary embraces requirement in Tester’s Hiring Heroes Act

(U.S. SENATE) – Senator Jon Tester today pushed federal officials to help combat high unemployment among the nation’s veterans by implementing ideas from his recently introduced Hiring Heroes Act.

Tester last week introduced the Hiring Heroes Act to combat veterans’ joblessness through job skills training, certification and improved federal hiring practices. The bipartisan bill would require the federal government to establish a system for certifying certain employment skills gained during active military service—improving veterans’ ability to market themselves for employment and assisting with transition to civilian jobs.

During a Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing today, Tester quizzed the two officials in charge of getting the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs to work together in creating job opportunities for veterans.

Tester called the unemployment rate among veterans “catastrophic” and “atrocious,” and called the status quo “totally unacceptable.”

Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs W. Scott Gould expressed support for the ideas in Tester’s legislation.

“I think you’re right,” Gould told Tester.  “It’s an opportunity for our veterans to translate the skills they have, and so we actually have been working with [the Department of Defense] on this.  The VA has a system in place to help translate those skills that you’re talking about.  Someone who drives a truck in the military and logs 100,000 miles under combat conditions—they ought to be safe for America’s roads.  Can we find a way to do that a little more easily and efficiently?  My sense is we can.”

Tester also stressed that certification must begin early.

“Once they get under the VA—once they get under your supervision—it’s too late,” Tester told Gould.  “This process has to be started when they’re in the active military because it’s important we certify what they’ve done.”

Tester recently hosted a jobs and opportunity workshop for Montana’s veterans which included potential employers—one of several workshops he has organized across the state to continue creating jobs and strengthening the state’s small businesses.