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Pending Legislation Designed to Help Veterans Find Jobs

By Sgt. 1st Class Kathleen T. Rhem, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 1, 2002 – Legislation passed by the House of Representatives and pending in the Senate is designed to improve the Department of Labor's role in helping veterans find jobs.

The Jobs for Veterans Act, H.R. 4015, passed the House 409- 0 May 21. The bill redesigns a Labor Department program called the Veterans Employment and Training Service.

Darryl Kehrer called the Jobs for Veterans Act "one super piece of legislation." Kehrer is the staff director for the benefits subcommittee of the House Veterans Affairs Committee. He spoke in New Orleans July 31 to more than 450 attendees at the DoD Worldwide Transition Assistance Program Training Conference.

Kehrer described the current program as "good people trapped in a very bad system." He said seven out of 10 veterans who use the current DoL program do not get jobs through it.

"That's an embarrassment to the people at the point of service who are doing the work, and it's an embarrassment to the business community who are losing good, skilled people," he said.

The current system doesn't work because there are no rewards for success or penalties for failure, Kehrer explained. The House bill aims to fix the system through "results, incentives, accountability and flexibility," he said.

Enactment of the Jobs for Veterans bill also would give former service members first priority in all DoL-funded employment-training programs, and it would create the president's national Hire Veterans Committee, he noted.

Kehrer quoted Subcommittee Chairman Mike Simpson of Idaho as saying it's fine for employers to hire transitioning service members for patriotic reasons, but patriotism isn't the best reason to hire veterans.

"Hiring former members of our military is a good business decision," Simpson said in a subcommittee hearing July 19. "Their reliability, initiative and leadership qualities are the best we'll find anywhere. Indeed, they are a unique national resource that we must harness."

That hearing was on expanding the Transition Assistance Program in overseas locations. DoD and service transition assistance managers testified that Labor Department assistance at overseas bases would greatly help the program, Kehrer said.

As a result, Simpson asked Labor Secretary Elaine Chao to "help service members overseas get jobs before they separate," Kehrer said.

"I want the young Americans stationed at the 38th parallel in Korea, or Afghanistan, or Kuwait, to get the same comprehensive post-service job assistance from the Labor Department as the service member stationed in the U.S.," Simpson said in the hearing.

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