New legislation is seeking to chip away at the unemployment rate among veterans who are returning from serving overseas, provide job training and put them to work in fields that take advantage of skills they already have.
The proposed Veterans’ Jobs Corps Act of 2012 would create an online database where veterans could search for job opportunities and would provide funding to establish training programs and to employ veterans in public sector jobs.
Veterans return after serving overseas with a diverse skill set, but putting that to good use can sometimes be lost in the transition from military life back to civilian life or because they may not qualify for public assistance programs, said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., on Wednesday in a conference call with reporters about the legislation.
“They should be on the fast track to success, but all too often, these talented veterans fall through the cracks,” Schumer said.
There’s a 12 percent unemployment rate for veterans who are returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, Schumer said.
The corps would provide training and employment to unemployed veterans not enrolled in any other federal training program, assist veterans in their transition from military service to civilian life, establish a conservation corps to carry out projects or award grants and contracts to state and local governments and non-governmental entities to employ veterans.
It also calls for collaborating with the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security to award grants to hire veterans as firefighters and law enforcement officials, and establishing an online database that would be a “one-stop center” for job searches, Schumer said.
Retired Glens Falls Army National Guard recruiter Arthur Coon said the issues of finding employment tend to be more prevalent among people who are on active duty and may be deployed for years at a time, rather than with National Guard civilians who are called up. But upon hearing of the proposed legislation, Coon voiced support for some of its potential benefits.
“What I like about this is it’s not so much giving them a handout, but it’s a training opportunity, Or maybe they already have training and it’s about helping along the licensing process,” Coon said. “Maybe that’s what it takes.”
The program would provide contracts or grants to state and local governments and non-profit organizations that sponsor job training programs and employ veterans. According to Schumer, the funding for the program would come from federal money that is already in the budget — it would come from money the Internal Revenue Service collects from delinquent Medicare providers.
The legislation was proposed by Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla.
The public sector jobs that veterans could go into through the proposed jobs corps range from law enforcement officers and emergency medical technicians to public transportation and erosion control workers.
Schumer’s office provided figures from the state Department of Labor, Research and Statistics that pinpoint the local unemployment rates among veterans as 8.5 percent in Washington County, 3.8 percent in Warren County and 4.7 percent in Saratoga County.
It is estimated that there are nearly 17,000 unemployed veterans in upstate New York, according to Schumer’s office.
In particular, it’s young veterans returning from serving overseas during an economic slump who are most affected. The unemployment rate among veterans who are 18 to 24 is higher than among their older counterparts.
When veterans return from overseas and are looking for work, local veterans services offices refer them to the Department of Labor, online job search engines and training programs offered locally, such as those at the Board of Cooperative Educational Services.
“We point them in every direction we can,” said Harry Candee, a Warren County Veterans Service officer.
Candee has also at times been approached by area businesses who are looking to hire veterans.
While Candee said Wednesday he hadn’t yet heard about the proposed legislation, his office does deal with a lot of veterans who are searching for employment, and the Veteran Retraining Assistance Program has been helpful.
That program was established last year by legislation with a similar goal to the Veterans’ Jobs Corps Act. It was championed by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and was signed into law in November by President Barack Obama. Called the Vow to Hire Heroes Act of 2011, that bill contained incentives in the form of a series of tax credits for businesses that hire veterans.