Help returning war veterans find jobs

When men and women serve in combat overseas to defend their country, they have a reason to believe they will find a job when they return home.

That, unfortunately, is not the case, both in the country and in Minnesota.

In the country, 13.3 percent of veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq cannot find a job. Thirty percent of veterans 18 to 24 years of age are unemployed.

Sixteen thousand Minnesota veterans are among the jobless.

Jobs for veterans was the reoccurring message during talks at The National American Legion Convention in Minneapolis.

This was the theme of President Barack Obama’s talk to the veterans at that national convention.

The president wants state legislatures to change the licensing qualifications so that military experience counts more in the civilian world. He said his administration already is hiring more returning veterans, which is a good message for all those who hire.

Military returnees have the basic skills companies need. They are disciplined and have specialized training.

A combat medic has the skills to be an EMT, but often that experience in the military is discounted.

A military police officer certainly has the qualifications to become a police officer.

A leader of an 11-person squad or bigger-number platoon ought to be prepared to be a supervisor in a company.

If only veterans who run companies would hire more veterans, an important step would be taken to solving unemployment of returning veterans.

President Obama wants Congress to pass legislation to give tax credits to businesses that hire veterans — a suggestion that brought applause from the convention delegates.

The president also said he wants to see reserve boot camps to help veterans adjust to working in civilian life.

In Minnesota, the Department of Employment and Economic Development has a special three-day workshop called the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) that helps veterans consider their job options, setting goals, making plans and developing job-seeking skills.

Veterans are returning to colleges under the GI bill to become more employable. The president wants to see vocational skills covered under the GI bill.

Despite these programs in Minnesota, the percentage of unemployed returning veterans is higher than the Minnesota employment rate.

Congressman Tim Walz of the First District, who is a veteran, says that employers don’t understand the special skills a veteran has. At the same time, repeated deployments make it more difficult for employers to keep hiring back employees.

Walz contends that the unemployment of veterans figure is misleading because many of those counted as jobless are going to special schools.

Few dispute that returning deployed veterans should be able to find a job as they transition into civilian life. Reducing that number of unemployed veterans is a challenge that must be met by state and national  governments and for anyone who hires in the private sector. —Don Heinzman ECM Publishers