Ahead of Memorial Day Weekend, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today announced landmark bipartisan veteran's employment legislation that would prepare New York veterans for the jobs of tomorrow. Currently, more than 21 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are unemployed.
The Veterans Employment Act of 2010 is the first bipartisan legislation that would address skyrocketing veteran's unemployment rates with a series of proposals to improve job training, help veterans translate military skills to the workplace, access further education, and assist veteran-owned small businesses.
"We have a moral responsibility to provide veterans with a good paying job and real economic opportunity," Senator Gillibrand said. "The work ethic and character of these veterans make them the most productive and successful members of our workforce, but we have to make sure they have all the tools they need to be successful. The members of our military put their lives on the line to keep us safe, yet struggle to find jobs when they come home. This comprehensive legislation would help provide job training and employment assistance to the men and women returning home and provide the economic opportunity our veterans have earned."
While veterans have the skills, determination, discipline and talent to succeed in the 21-century economy, more than 21 percent are currently unemployed. Veterans face unique challenges that translate into trouble finding a job or starting a business. For instance, members of the Armed Forces learn a wide range of technical and leadership skills during their time in the military, but often find it difficult to transfer these skills to civilian professions. Too often veterans fall through the cracks of existing employment assistance programs or do not qualify for their services. The economic downturn has hit younger veterans especially hard, with more than twenty-one percent of veterans ages 18 to 24 going without jobs when they return home.
The Veterans Employment Act would help veterans translate their unique skills into career success by expanding job training, placement services and entrepreneurship opportunities for veterans who may otherwise have fallen through the cracks of existing programs. Specifically, it:
* Establishes a Veteran Business Center Program within the Small Business Administration (SBA) to provide critical entrepreneurial training and counseling to veterans.
* Expands the Post-9/11 GI Bill to allow returning veterans to use the benefit for apprenticeship and worker training programs that will help them acquire the skills they need to find stable, family-wage jobs in their communities.
* Creates pilot programs to test ways transitioning servicemembers can build on the technical skills learned in the military and better market those skills in the civilian workforce.
* Establishes a Veterans Conservation Corps Grant Program and a Veterans Energy/Green Jobs Grant Program to connect veterans with the green jobs market of the future.
The Veterans Employment Act also takes steps to make current job assistance programs work better for veterans. Specifically, it:
* Examines the expansion of the National Guard Employment Enhancement Project (NGEEP), which would provide transition assistance to National Guard members.
* Requires the Department of Defense and the Department of Labor Veterans Employment and Training Service to examine the Transition Assistance Program for active duty servicemembers and recommend how to update and upgrade the program to meet the needs of today's veterans.
The bipartisan legislation is sponsored by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), a senior member of Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. Companion legislation has been introduced in the House of Representatives by Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA).