U.S. Senator Mark Pryor today expressed concern about the high unemployment rate of young veterans, and introduced a pair of bills aimed at improving their transition to civilian life and strengthening their employment rights.
Pryor teamed up with Senator Mike Johanns (R-NE) to introduce the Helping Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Return to Employment (HIRE) at Home Act. This bill will encourage states to consider the specialized military training and experience service members acquire on active duty as filling all or some of the state certification and licensing requirements. The bill applies to individuals seeking employment as a commercial truck driver, certified nursing assistant or emergency medical technician.
"Many veterans have already demonstrated proficiency through military training and experience, and they have done so while performing in a war zone. This legislation simply encourages states to consider our service members' experience, which could allow them to skip expensive and time-consuming classes or hurdles to employment," Pryor said. "With an unemployment rate of 29 percent last year, we need to do everything we can to help get young veterans working. I am hopeful this bill will help."
Pryor also introduced the Service Member Employment Protection Act to strengthen employment rights for service members and veterans. First, this bill would allow veterans to take "time off without pay" from their jobs to receive medical treatment for service-related injuries. Second, the bill would suspend or bar companies who repeatedly violate military discrimination laws from receiving current or future government contracts. Finally, it would allow service members to pursue discrimination cases in federal court instead of in employer-forced arbitration.
"If we want to maintain a first-rate military, we need to care our service members while they're on active duty and when they return home," Pryor said. "This bill is an easy way for us to support veterans in the workforce."