Senator's bill tackles joblessness for vets
The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch
As an Army sergeant, Adam Williams was dispatched to the conflict in Kosovo in 2001, fought in the 2003 invasion of Iraq and then served another tour of duty in Iraq.
His reward when he left the Army and went home to Pennsylvania: unemployment.
“It was really hard to find a job,” said Williams, 32, now a resident of Reynoldsburg.
Many military veterans know that all too well. The unemployment rate for Afghanistan and Iraq veterans in Ohio is 13.9 percent, almost twice the rate for the rest of the state, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Nationally, the number of veterans receiving unemployment benefits has more than doubled since 2002, to nearly 90,000 in 2012.
“The unemployment rate among veterans is shamefully too high,” said U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.
At American Legion Post 144 on the South Side yesterday, Brown said a bill he is co-sponsoring, “The Troop Talent Act of 2013,” would help veterans find jobs by making it easier for them to match the skills they learned in the military to civilian jobs requiring accreditation.
The bill would make for an easier transition to civilian jobs by providing veterans with information during their military careers about earning credentials and licenses that match their specialty training. It also would expand a Defense Department credentialing program that matches skills of service members to civilian fields such as aircraft and automotive mechanics, health care, supply and logistics and truck driving.
Brown said there is a strong chance the bill will be amended into the National Defense Authorization Act this fall, adding, “There’s not much opposition to it.”
After leaving the Army, Williams moved to central Ohio when a friend helped him land a $12.50-an-hour job as a security guard. Meanwhile, he used the GI Bill to get an associate’s degree. He now works for the Franklin County Veterans’ Service Commission, helping other vets with financial aid to pay rent and utilities and processing medical claims.
Williams and Joe Hinkle, a Vietnam-era Army veteran who is commander of Post 144, said they aren’t sure why the unemployment rate is higher for vets, but they suspect part of the reason is because of a stigma about lingering post-service problems.
“It’s a stigma that sometimes prevents employers from hiring vets,” said Williams, adding that those who do hire veterans “generally are going to get someone who’s going to show up for work on time, be dedicated to their job, and you’re going to get the skills you don’t normally see in the civilian world.”
Hinkle said membership at the post is declining — it’s now about 650 — “because a lot of veterans don’t have jobs and they can’t come in here and spend money.”