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VA Program Promotes Employment Among New Vets

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 8, 2005 – Young veterans face unemployment rates three times the national average, so a new Department of Veterans Affairs program is working to promote job opportunities for those leaving military service, the Veterans Affairs secretary said.

R. James Nicholson spoke to the American Forces Press Service and the Pentagon Channel in anticipation of National Veterans Awareness Week, which began Nov. 6 and continues through Nov. 12.

"Fulfilling the Commitment - Coming Home to Work" is a new VA initiative focused on veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, Nicholson said. The initiative, announced in mid-October, taps into existing federal, state and private-sector resources to help the 200,000 servicemembers who separate from active military service each year.

Nicholson cited alarming unemployment rates among young veterans and said the nation owes them assistance as they leave military service.

Almost 15 percent of veterans in the 20-to-24-year-old age group were unemployed during the first three quarters of 2005, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The national rate is closer to 5 percent.

Nicholson said he's hopeful the Coming Home to Work effort will help improve veterans' job prospects by educating employers about veterans' job needs as well as the attributes veterans bring to the workplace.

"People who just come off active duty, who volunteered, who submitted themselves to all that training and regimen and discipline are just outstanding prospects for employment," he said. "We just need to get them linked up with prospective employers, and that's what this initiative is doing."

In a related move, the VA and General Services Administration signed a formal agreement Nov. 4 expanding GSA's efforts for veterans who own businesses. The agreement commits GSA to put more emphasis on programs for veteran-owned businesses, particularly those with service-related disabilities.

By law, all federal agencies are required to strive to award 3 percent of their contracts, by value, to businesses owned by service-disabled veterans.

The new VA-GSA agreement commits the agencies to cosponsor eight regional conferences for veteran businesses in the coming year. The Small Business Administration and other federal agencies will also participate.

The first regional conference began Nov. 7 and continues through today in Kansas City, Mo.

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R. James Nicholson

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