On eve of Veteran’s Day, Senate passes veterans jobs bill

The Takeaway

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In a rare showing of bipartisanship, on Thursday the U.S. Senate passed, 95-0, a small sliver of President Barack Obama’s jobs bill: a program that aims to help veterans find jobs.

The program, passed just in time for Veteran’s Day, Friday, offer employers up to $5,600 per veteran they hire and employ for at least six months. The goal is to help thousands of veterans find jobs.

Similar measures have been approved in the House, and the final Senate version is expected to win passage in the House of Representatives next week.

“It’s no secret that the House and Senate are divided on any number of economic and political issues facing average Americans right now,” said Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), chairwoman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, in the Washington Post. “But … our veterans are the one issue that we should never be divided on.”

More than 200,000 veterans are current unemployed. Among veterans 18-30, 21 percent are unemployed.

But veterans’ advocates, like Dr. Casi Crockett administrative director of Stand Down, a organization that works with unemployed veterans returning from service, said this bill probably won’t really do enough. Most employers want to see business pick up before they start hiring again.

“It is a good step in the right direction, however there needs to be something else attached to this. We need to educate employers,” she said. “We need summits, we need workshops to explain the urgency of hiring these vets and the wealth of experience they’ll bring to the table.”

Crockett said that our veterans coming back from war are trained for that environment. They need help understanding how those skills translate into the civilian working world.

“Where do those skill-sets put them or place them,” she said. “Twenty-five percent of the veterans who are returning now need help navigating to determine where their skill-sets fit.”

Lt. Jeff Hartline returned from Afghanistan in January 2010 and spent more than eight months unemployed, looking for a job. He said veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan bring lots of skills — leadership, decision-making under stress, time management, logistics planning — that should make them highly employable.

“Awareness is the biggest thing, for employers to be aware of the benefits of hiring veterans,” he said.

Ultimate, Hartline ended up working for the military, as a readiness analysts for the Maryland National Guard.

Crocket agreed, saying she had one employer tell her recently that hiring a recent veteran was like hiring someone who had just been released from prions.

“What does that say about our society?” she said.

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“The Takeaway” is a national morning news program, delivering the news and analysis you need to catch up, start your day, and prepare for what’s ahead. The show is a co-production of WNYC and PRI, in editorial collaboration with the BBC, The New York Times Radio, and WGBH.

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