In his first bill as a Virginia senator, Tim Kaine wants to address a big problem for veterans transitioning back into civilian life.
Kaine hopes his "Troop Talent Act of 2013" will make it easier for veterans to apply their military skills to jobs here at home.
Kaine formally unveiled this legislation Tuesday afternoon in Richmond. He wants to make it easier for veterans, in Virginia and across the country, to translate their military skills to civilian credentials or licenses.
According to Kaine's office, the bill would help provide more information to service members about how to translate their military skills into credentials. It would also increase access to high-demand career fields for former service members, including a new focus on information technology.
Veteran peer specialist Ben Shaw says, as the Department of Defense scales back to pre-surge levels, helping new veterans transition back is becoming extremely important.
"It is absolutely inevitable that more men and women are going to enter the civilian workforce, or the civilian job hunt more accurately, from active duty and they're going to need some help," Shaw said.
As of February, the national unemployment rate for Afghanistan and Iraq war veterans sat at 9.4 percent, up almost 2 percent from this time last year.
Virginia alone is home to more than 800,000 veterans, and Kaine hopes his first bill will help cut down on veteran unemployment.
Wednesday, Kaine will speak with students at the University of Virginia, and introduce this new measure on the Senate floor next week.
Office of Tim Kaine MEDIA RELEASE
KAINE ANNOUNCES FIRST BILL TO INCREASE & STREAMLINE CREDENTIALING FOR VETERANS
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, a member of the Armed Services Committee, today announced his first bill, the Troop Talent Act of 2013, at the American Legion Headquarters in Richmond. The bill will help ease the transition of servicemembers from active duty to the civilian workforce by improving the alignment of skills acquired in the military with civilian certifications or licenses required for post-service employment. During Kaine's travels across Virginia, he has heard from countless veterans who face challenges when they try to use skills they've acquired during their military service to find jobs in the private sector.
"Our nation's servicemembers learn and specialize in critical skills while on active duty that more than prepare them for a wide range of employment in the civilian workforce. Aside from their technical talent, the leadership, integrity and decision-making skills of our troops is simply too valuable to let fall through the cracks. Too often, these servicemembers and veterans face unnecessary hurdles in acquiring the formal certifications, licenses or education they need to perform the same duties outside of the military," Kaine said. "And with the veteran unemployment rate higher among recent Iraq and Afghanistan veterans than the national average, we owe it to them to do everything we can to match their skills with the jobs employers are ready to hire them for."
Kaine plans to introduce the Troop Talent Act when the Senate reconvenes. As of February 2013, the veteran unemployment rate among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans was 9.4%, up from 7.6% in 2012. The number of veterans receiving unemployment benefits has more than doubled since 2002, rising from 44,810 to 89,725 in 2012.
"There has been great work done on this issue by many of my colleagues but barriers still remain to our veterans that have the skills and leadership needed to grow our economy," Kaine said. "This effort is good for veterans employability, good for businesses who need to hire trained workers, and good for our country's commitment to those who have served."
Kaine has discussed the credentialing issue across Virginia including roundtables with veterans and their spouses near Marine Base Quantico, hearings in the Senate, and at defense installations including Fort Lee on Tuesday morning.
Kaine was joined at a press conference today by Joel Hinzman of Oracle, a company that helps credential veterans for information technology professions and George Lussier of the American Legion, who thanked Kaine for his record as a veterans advocate and his work on this important issue.
"The VFW is proud to support Senator Kaine's efforts to make our military men and women employment-ready once they separate from military service," said VFW Executive Director Bob Wallace. "This is common sense legislation that helps to close the licensing and credentialing gap many of our veterans face by allowing servicemembers to understand the pathways to civilian careers and preparing military professionals to do their jobs while in uniform and beyond."
"The Legion has been urging federal and state lawmakers as well as industry policy makers to streamline the military-to-civilian licensing and credentialing process for a decade and a half now," said American Legion National Commander James E. Koutz. "It is truly gratifying to see that action is now being taken to go beyond rhetoric and advance tangible, workable ways to enhance the translation of military skills into the mainstream workplace. Enactment of legislation like the Troop Talent act of 2013 will benefit not only the servicemember, but those who eventually employ him or her in the civilian work world."
"Servicemembers deserve straightforward information on how their military skills translate into civilian certifications and licenses," said Michael Dakduk, executive director of Student Veterans of America. "The key here is ensuring troops get as much information on their skill-sets prior to removing the uniform. For precisely this reason, Student Veterans of America is proud to support Senator Kaine's Troop Talent Act of 2013."
The Troop Talent Act of 2013 will:
• Improve translation of military skill sets to civilian certifications or licenses by providing more information to servicemembers – early and often – throughout their military careers about the path to earning a civilian credential to match their military occupational specialty training. It would also encourage the Department of Defense to, where appropriate, provide more information about military training and curricula to organizations involved with the credentialing process that will help them better account for military training in the awarding of credentials.
• Prevent credential fraud by establishing strict standards for courses or programs that guarantee a credential after successful completion. It would also reestablish a committee at the Department of Veterans Affairs that provides oversight of the credentialing process to ensure servicemembers and taxpayers are getting the highest return on their investment.
• Increase access to high-demand career fields for servicemembers by expanding the current Department of Defense Pilot Program on credentialing to include the field of information technology and matching the skills of servicemembers with one of the fastest-growing industries.
Kaine will host a roundtable with veterans and business owners at the American Legion Post 16 in Lynchburg on Wednesday to receive feedback on the bill and discuss their ideas on military credentialing.