With the unemployment rate among recent Iraq and Afghanistan veterans nearly double Ohio's overall employment rate, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), a senior member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, outlined a plan today that would reduce unemployment among recently-returned servicemembers and ease their transition into the civilian workforce. While service members acquire significant training and skills in the military, often these talents are not transferred easily into civilian employment credentials.
"Veterans who serve their country in order to protect our freedoms deserve every opportunity to find work when they come home," Brown said. "They are among our most talented civilians, but are too often unable to get credentialed for the training they've received. That is why I support the Troop Talent Act of 2013, which would ensure a clearer and easier path to matching military skills with civilian accreditation. It is the right thing to do for our military men and women and would strengthen our country's workforce while lowering its unemployment rate."
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the unemployment rate for Afghanistan and Iraq veterans in Ohio is currently 13.9 percent, almost twice the rate for the rest of the state (5.8 percent). Nationally, the number of veterans receiving unemployment benefits has more than doubled since 2002, rising from 44,810 to 89,725 in 2012.
At today's event at American Legion Post 301, Brown outlined how the Troop Talent Act of 2013 would help veterans better utilize the skills they have acquired in the military to find full-time employment when they transition back to civilian life. Specifically, the legislation would:
Improve the translation of military skillsets to civilian credentials or licenses by providing earlier and more frequent information to servicemembers--during their military careers--about earning a civilian credential that matches their specialty training. The bill would also encourage the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) to provide more information to credentialing organizations about military training and education to better ensure that specific military skills receive appropriate civilian credentials.
Prevent credential fraud by establishing strict standards for programs that guarantee a credential after successful completion. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) would also reestablish a committee to ensure efficiency, productivity, and legitimacy in the credentialing process for both servicemembers and taxpayers.
Increase access to high-demand career fields for servicemembers by expanding the current DoD credentialing program. DoD has established a pilot program that attempts to match the skills of servicemembers for various jobs and fields including aircraft mechanics, automotive mechanics, health care professions, supply and logistics personnel, and truck drivers. The bill would expand the program to include information technology (IT), one of the fastest growing fields in the country with a high demand for skilled workers.
Brown was joined at the press conference by Youngstown native, Sgt. Bryant Jackson, a Marine and Purple Heart recipient who struggled to find work when he returned from Afghanistan. Sgt. Jackson served as a field radio operator during his service. But despite his knowledge and experience in the communication field, he has been unable to find work which would utilize those skills.
Also joining Brown to highlight this important issue was Barry Landgraver, Director of the Mahoning County Veterans Service Commission.
Brown is the only Ohio Senator to serve a full term on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and is Co-Chair of the Senate Air Force Caucus. He is also an original cosponsor of the VOW to Hire Heroes Law, which offers job retraining assistance to veterans between 35 and 60 years of age.
During an August press conference in Youngstown, Brown called on the VA to make immediate and necessary changes in order to eliminate its backlog of, at the time, nearly 490,000 claims filed by disabled veterans and their caregivers for services and benefits they earned. Brown announced a plan to prevent and reduce the backlog by working to pass two key pieces of legislation, the Veterans Services Outreach Act and the Claims Processing Improvement Act.