Senate panel listens to Tester, beefs up job assistance for rural veterans

Senator bringing more veterans job counselors to Montana

(GREAT FALLS, Mont.) – Taking the advice of Montana’s only member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, a Senate panel is increasing the number of veterans job counselors in rural states like Montana.

The Senate Appropriations Committee incorporated provisions from a Jon Tester bill into a larger measure that will increase assistance to hire more counselors to improve rural veterans’ access to employment opportunities.

The Department of Labor’s veterans job counselors are currently assigned based solely on a state’s population without any consideration of the size of the state. Montana, the fourth-largest state in the nation, has only three full-time and seven part-time job counselors to cover the entire state.
“This is another good example of how a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t cut it for Montana,” Tester said. “The needs of veterans in rural Montana are far different from the needs of a veteran in an urban area. This bill is about helping Montana’s veterans get equal access to the resources available as they look for work.”

In increasing assistance, the committee said there are too few counselors in rural states to provide personalized assistance to veterans or to build relationships with local employers.

The Labor Department will hire the job counselors through its Veterans’ Employment and Training Service. 

The panel also increased support for the Transition Assistance Program, which helps service members transition to civilian status. Tester’s VOW to Hire Heroes Act, the only jobs bill to pass Congress last year, makes this initiative mandatory. 

Tester’s bipartisan VOW to Hire Heroes Act creates job opportunities for veterans by streamlining the transition from military service to civilian work, expanding training opportunities and providing tax incentives for companies that hire veterans. It became law in November. 

Tester is a founding member of the Senate Veterans Jobs Caucus. He most recently introduced legislation to help student veterans as they use their G.I. Bill benefits to attend college and train for new jobs.