U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine’s (D-Va.) bill to help veterans find employment and other resources more easily once entering civilian life was introduced Monday to the U.S. House of Representatives.
The Troop Talent Act of 2013 is designed to help veterans effectively translate their military skills and credentials into civilian employment, Kaine said.
As of March 2013, the unemployment rate for post-9/11 veterans was 9.2 percent. That’s down slightly from 9.4 percent in February 2013 but still higher than the national average of 7.1 percent.
U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) called that number "unacceptable" as she introduced the Troop Talent Act to Congress on Monday.
“The unemployment rate for Veterans who have served in the military since 2001 is nearly 10 percent,” Duckworth said. “Our Veterans deserve every opportunity to achieve the American Dream that they fought for.”
As of Sept. 30, 2012, Virginia was home to more than 830,000 veterans, according to the most recent statistics available from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Kaine decided to introduce the legislation — his first bill since winning his seat in November 2012 — after hearing from many veterans about the difficulties and barriers they faced when transitioning out of the military and into society, Lily Adams, Kaine’s press secretary, said in an email to Patch.
The Troop Talent Act, according to Kaine, would
- improve the application of military skills to civilian credentials and licenses by giving service members more information throughout their military careers about how to apply their specialty skills to civilian work;
- prevent credential fraud by setting stricter standards for courses or programs that would guarantee credentials after completion, as well as re-establish a Department of Veteran Affairs committee that oversees the credentialing process;
- expand the Department of Defense pilot program on credentialing to include information technology, giving service members more access to high-demand career fields.
The issue is one Virginia — a state with one of the highest per-capita veteran populations in the country — has been trying to tackle for years, with mixed success.
This year, the Virginia General Assembly passed 8 of the 18 bills dealing with veterans affairs introduced during the 2013 session, including a bill from State Del. Rich Anderson (D-Woodbridge) that directs the Department of Veterans Services to develop a comprehensive plan to deal with veteran unemployment.
During the General Assembly’s 2011 session, State Del. Mark Keam (D-Vienna) successfully passed a veterans’ affairs bill, HB 2279, which requested the Department of Veterans Services study certification and licensing opportunities for veterans.
Kaine's most recent attempt in Congress comes on the same day he and fellow U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va) also penned a letter to President Barack Obama urging action to reduce the backlog of disability claims.
According to Warner and Kaine, the average wait time for a veteran's disability claim is more than 300 days.
“After a decade of war, and despite the VA’s efforts to modernize, more than 600,000 veterans are still stuck in the VA’s disability claims backlog,” Sens. Warner and Kaine wrote. “We need direct and public involvement from you to establish a clear plan to end the backlog once and for all.”
Sixty-five other members of the Senate also signed the letter.
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