By Senator Kristen Gillibrand
This Memorial Day, as we pay tribute to all the brave heroes we have lost fighting for our country, we must also remember the debt we owe to those veterans who return home.
One of the greatest challenges our returning vets face is finding employment here at home. While too many Americans are struggling in this economy, it's particularly difficult for our young vets. Currently, more than 12 percent of our veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan are unemployed.
This is unacceptable. The skills our veterans possess are unique and their work ethic is unparralleled but translating that service to a resumé for civilian employers continues to be a challenge. That's why I was proud that Congress came together last year to pass the bipartisan VOW To Hire Heroes Act. This law will give our vets the tools and resources to help them market their incredible skills to employers so they can land a job, support their family and pursue their career goals.
But there's still more we need to do.
First, we must improve and streamline the Transition Assistance Program (TAP), which provides job training and education to our returning vets in addition to hands on assistance with resumé-writing and interview skills.
Under the VOW to Hire Heroes Act, we made TAP mandatory for all active servicemembers. It's an incredibly effective resource but to improve its effectiveness, we need to expand and streamline it by passing the TAP Modernization Act so we can give our vets and their families the chance at success they deserve.
In addition, we must improve the education opportunities that our veterans are getting through the GI Bill. While the GI bill is a well-deserved ticket to higher education for our vets, we need to make sure that when veterans are taking advantage of it, that schools are not taking advantage of them.
The Military and Veterans Educational Reform Act will strengthen the Post-9/11 GI Bill by ensuring that educational institutions receiving assistance through the VA and Defense Department meet commonsense requirements and provide critical information to potential students. It will also call on state agencies to conduct greater education and outreach activities to assist our veterans in making informed career decisions.
Finally, we must continue to ease the hiring process for veterans. Currently, veterans are held back by the bureaucratic red tape of the federal certification process that prevents them from immediately applying for many jobs they are qualified for.
To speed up the credentialing process, I am pushing for the Veteran Skills to Jobs Act. The bill would require agencies to proactively recognize relevant military training and skills when certifying veterans for federal occupational licenses.
While these bills are not a silver bullet, my hope is that collectively, they will ease the transition for our young veterans so that they can enter the workforce here at home more easily so we can bring down the alarming unemployment rate among our young vets. We must do everything we can to enable them to fulfill their full potential. It's the least we can do to begin to repay the debt we owe these brave young Americans who answered the ulitmate call to service for our country.