Tester pushes for improvements to fight veterans unemployment

In Senate hearing, Senator explores tools to reverse joblessness among returning troops

(U.S. SENATE) – Senator Jon Tester today pushed federal officials to take more effective steps to fight high unemployment among the nation’s veterans.

In a Senate hearing, Tester questioned federal officials and veterans on ways to “transfer knowledge gained on the field of battle” to civilian employment.

Tester talked with Eric Smith with the group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, on how to focus the VA’s hiring practices to look specifically at hiring veterans.

“I can tell you that in Montana, we’re looking for medical professionals all the time,” said Tester, Montana’s only member of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee.  “And it has always been my assumption that the VA looked to veterans first, and if they don’t, they should.”

Telling federal officials to “set your egos aside and do it,” Tester also called for:

  • A stronger Transition Assistance Program for servicemembers leaving the military
  • Better coordination between federal agencies and private organizations
  • A process for the military to certify certain employment skills for troops
  • A better strategy for addressing veterans unemployment in rural communities and on reservations

Veterans across the country currently face higher unemployment rates than the broader public, with young veterans struggling with a jobless rate of more than 20 percent.

Tester today also questioned Garett Reppenhagen with the organization Veterans Green Jobs, on his group’s efforts to employ veterans with work in renewable energy and conservation.  Tester cited cleanup of abandoned mines in Montana as a possible source of employment for veterans in the state and urged Reppenhagen to “flesh out” and move forward with such efforts.

A video of Tester’s hearing is available HERE.

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