The Pentagon will need to better help returning servicemen convert their specialized military training into civilian careers if a bill co-sponsored by U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio) becomes law.
Mr. Brown, speaking Wednesday at the University of Toledo, said he introduced the Troop Talent Act of 2013 with eight other Democrats and seven Republicans to help veterans make an easier transition back to civilian life and avoid unemployment.
UT already has programs to help returning servicemen get college credit for service-related skills and training, either through testing or a portfolio.
He said the law would have little or no cost burden to taxpayers.
According to the senator’s office, the unemployment rate for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans is nearly twice that of the overall population. And the number of veterans receiving unemployment benefits has more than doubled since 2002, from 44,810 to 89,725.
“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.
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 to help them account better for knowledge and skills gained in the military.
Sean Baney, 40, is a Navy veteran of Iraq, where he was a corpsman. He is an Owens Community College student who plans to start at the University of Toledo on a bachelor’s degree after completing the requirements for his associate’s degree. He is a flight medic with ProMedica.
“I know coming out of the medical field in the Navy with a lot of the civilian organizations’ 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 and a military liaison at UT, said the Troop Talent Act 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.”
The issue of recognizing veterans’ military skills was raised last year by Samuel “Joe the Plumber” Wurzelbacher, a Springfield Township Republican, in his failed bid for the 9th Congressional District seat 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 plumber because he did not have a civilian license or certification.
The legislation is one of several bills Senator Brown has co-sponsored to give veterans a boost in training and employment.
The Veterans’ Employment Opportunities Enhancement Act of 2013, now awaiting a vote in the Senate, would reauthorize the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program for two more years to provide retraining assistance to unemployed veterans for 12 months.
Also co-sponsored by Mr. Brown is a bill that would provide an additional $1,000 per semester to those who use the GI Bill to pursue a career in a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics fields.
— Tom Troy