A bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation late Tuesday to speed up the credentialing process for veterans and get them into the workforce sooner.
The Veteran Skills to Jobs Act, sponsored by U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) and cosponsored by U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), requires agencies to recognize relevant military training and skills when certifying veterans for federal occupational licenses. Instead of spending time retraining, veterans would be able to receive a federal license if it's determined their military experience is enough to fulfill the license requirements.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is responsible for tracking employment data in the United States, the national unemployment rate was 8.9 percent in 2011. But, the unemployment rate for veterans who have served on active duty at any point since September 2001 was 12.1 percent.
"Veterans are returning home having already done one of the most difficult, dangerous jobs out there," Nelson said. "This is a way we can ease their transition back into civilian life, and remove some of the obstacles in their way."
"It is unacceptable that so many veterans, especially those recently returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have found themselves unable to successfully transition into civilian professions for which they have already received world-class training in the military," said Senator Snowe. "Instead, too many are forced to spend time and money to go through additional instruction and testing to receive federal certificates or licenses for experience and knowledge that they already possess. Our government should eliminate such unnecessary, cumbersome barriers to certification for these brave, patriotic Americans, which is why I am proudly supporting the Veteran Skills to Jobs Act. That's also why I introduced legislation to streamline the process of obtaining Commercial Driver's Licenses for our nation's heroes, and I am pleased that initiative passed the Senate as part of the Highway Bill earlier this month."
"Our young men and women in uniform are able to perform complex duties under extreme pressure and danger, and when they return home they should be able to use these battle-tested skills to secure a good job," Klobuchar said. "This common-sense legislation will help our veterans cut through the red tape and get the credentials they need to get the jobs they deserve."
"I am proud to cosponsor this bill, which will remove unnecessary hurdles to veterans seeking occupation licenses," Blumenthal said. "It will enable more veterans to use skills and expertise they gain in the military to fill good civilian jobs. We must continue to provide our brave service members with unrestricted access to employment opportunities, and continue to lend our full support to these men and women in every way we can. This step is another necessity to reduce unacceptably high rates of veteran unemployment."
U.S. Reps. Jeff Denham (R-CA) and Timothy Walz (D-MN), introduced companion legislation in the House earlier this month. The bill is supported by the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Retired Enlisted Association and the Mid-Tier Advocacy Coalition.
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