Tuesday, November 15, 2011

New Initiatives to Get Veterans Working

Representatives from the Reserve Officers Association attended an event in the White House Rose Garden on Monday, November 7, during which President Obama announced new steps to improve employment opportunities for post-9/11 veterans.  ROA was pleased to be among the Veterans and Military Service Organizations invited to the president’s announcement.

Three new individual initiatives were outlined by the president during his address. The first initiative was a “Veterans Gold Card,” a download for post-9/11 veterans looking for work that gives them access to six months of case management and counseling at the over 3,000 career centers across the country operated by the Department of Labor.

President Obama also announced the launching of a new website, “My Next Move,” designed to help veterans learn about their career options.  This website, http://www.mynextmove.org/vets/, provides information on job skills, salary, and job listings. The website also provides an algorithm that translates the skills veterans acquired through their military occupations to search civilian careers.

The final of the president’s three new initiatives is a website, “Veterans Jobs Bank,” (https://www.nationalresourcedirectory.gov/) which allows employers to “tag” job postings for veterans by searching private and public partnerships with Simply Hired, Monster and LinkedIn.  Veterans can also use the online tool to search for available jobs by their skills or their zip code.

In his three-prong initiative, President Obama said he’s determined “ to do everything in [his] power to see to it that America’s veterans have the opportunities that they deserve and that they have earned.”

President Obama also spoke about the provisions included in the American Jobs Act to help veterans get back to work, such as tax credits for employers who hire veterans and wounded warriors.  These initiatives he introduced are a supplemental effort to assist unemployed veterans.  

The provisions in the American Jobs Act are among several veterans employment bills in Congress right now.  Combining both the Senate’s Hiring Heroes Act of 2011 (introduced last May), and the House’s Veterans Opportunity to Work Act of 2011, or the VOW Act, (passed last month), the Senate passed the “VOW to Hire Heroes Act” just last week. This bill is a bipartisan, bicameral, comprehensive legislation that would lower the rate of unemployment among the nation’s veterans. According to the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, the bill blends provisions of the House Chairman Miller’s Veterans Opportunity to Work (VOW) Act and Senate Chairman Murray’s Hiring Heroes Act, and veterans’ tax credits into a comprehensive jobs package that will aggressively attack the unacceptably high rate of veterans' unemployment by: 
  •  Expanding Education & Training: To begin moving veterans out of the unemployment lines, the VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011 provides nearly 100,000 unemployed veterans of past eras and wars with up to 1-year of additional Montgomery GI Bill benefits to qualify for jobs in high-demand sectors, from trucking to technology. It also provides disabled veterans who have exhausted their unemployment benefits up to 1-year of additional VA Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment benefits.
  • Improving the Transition Assistance Program (TAP): Too many service members don’t participate in TAP and enter civilian life without a basic understanding of how to compete in a tight job market. Therefore, the VOW to Hire Heroes Act will make TAP mandatory for most service members transitioning to civilian status, upgrade career counseling options, and job hunting skills, as well as ensuring the program is tailored to individuals and the 21st Century job market.
  • Facilitating Seamless Transition: Getting a civil service job can often take months which often forces a veteran to seek unemployment benefits. To shorten the time to start a federal job after discharge, this bill would allow service members to begin the federal employment process by acquiring veterans preference status prior to separation.  This would facilitate a more seamless transition to civil service jobs at VA, or the many other federal agencies that would benefit from hiring our veterans.
  • Translating Military Skills and Training: This bill will also require the Department of Labor to take a hard look at how to translate military skills and training to civilian sector jobs, and will work to make it easier to get the licenses and certification our veterans need.
  • Veterans Tax Credits: The VOW to Hire Heroes Act provides tax credits for hiring veterans and disabled veterans who are out of work. 
Veterans’ unemployment, particularly the staggering number of unemployed Guardsmen and Reservists, is of great concern to ROA, and the Association is in support of the President and Congress to take prompt and aggressive action.  The new initiatives set in motion by the President and Congress are a step in the right direction, but much more needs to be done to protect and ensure the employment of our Citizen Soldiers.

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