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Veterans who return from Iraq, Afghanistan, and any other place where they wore one of the nation's military uniforms should get more help converting their specialized military training into a civilian career, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio) said Wednesday in Toledo.
Mr. Brown said he is cosponsoring a bill, the Troop Talent Act, with eight Democrats and seven Republicans to require the Department of Defense to try to align military training with civilian certification standards and offer help to service members to plan for a civilian job in their field.
Senator Brown touted the bill at a news conference at the University of Toledo along with several former members of the military. UT already has programs to give returning service members credit for service-related skills and training.
He said the law would have little or no cost to taxpayers.
According to the senator's office, the unemployment rate for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans is higher than the rest of the population. And the number of veterans receiving unemployment benefits has more than doubled since 2002, from 44,810 to 89,725.
The issue of recognizing veterans' military skills was raised last year by Samuel "Joe the Plumber" Wurzelbacher (R., Springfield Township) in his unsuccessful bid for the 9th Congressional District against U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo). He said he was trained as a plumber in the Air Force but was not recognized as a skilled plumber because he did not have a civilian license or certification.
Senator Brown said helping veterans through union apprenticeship programs, such as to be an electrician, is one of the goals of the legislation.
"If you're a medic in the military you ought to have a leg up on getting EMT certification. If you're a driver in the military you ought to be able to get a commercial driver's license easier and you should be able to get a job when you come back to Lucas County. The purpose of this bill is to connect better than we're doing," Mr. Brown said. "If you're an electrician in Iraq you have a leg up on electricians' apprentice programs."
Specifically, the bill would require the Pentagon to provide more guidance to service members to help create a path to a civilian career, and to require the Pentagon to communicate better with civilian licensing and credentialing agencies about to help them account better for knowledge and skills gained in the military.
Sean Baney, 40, a Navy veteran of Iraq where he was a hospital medical corpsman, is a student who is wrapping up an associate's degree at Owens Community College and then plans to start at UT for a bachelor's degree.
"I know coming out of the medical field in the Navy, a lot of the civilian organizations's certification process, you have to go through everything just like you were starting brand-new," Mr. Baney said. "Right now there really is no recognition of our training and experience. It's not transferable to certification."
Lt. Haraz Ghanbari, of the U.S. Naval Reserve, military liaison at UT, said the Troop Talent Act is important to a successful transition from military to civilian life.
"This piece of legislation is another key to that important and critical puzzle of making sure our veterans have every chance after they have raised that right hand to answer their nation's call to service," Lt. Ghanbari said.