More than 12 percent of veterans who served in the military post 9/11 were unemployed in 2011, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and among the youngest who have returned from war, this figure is closer to 20 percent.
These staggering unemployment rates for U.S. veterans was the impetus for new bi-partisan legislation that Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Carolyn McCarthy unveiled in Garden City Friday.
Standing on the Adelphi University campus, where currently close to 100 veterans who have returned from Afghanistan and Iraq are enrolled, both Congress members spoke about how these new acts will ease the transition from military to civilian life for these brave men and women.
In December, Congress passed the VOW to Hire Heroes Act, which made the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) mandatory for all departing veterans, but the newest bill, the Tap Modernization Act, will make this program more accessible to all vets and their spouses. It will also require the Department of Labor's Veterans Employment and Training Service to integrate job search experts into the TAP program.
Through the Military and Veterans Reform Act, Gillibrand explained, the Post-9/11 GI Bill will also be strengthened. Educational institutions receiving assistance from the Department of Veterans Affiars and the Department of Defense will be held to common-sense requirements, and the process for vets to report incidents of fraud related to these institutions will be streamlined. Under the bill, state agencies will also be mandated to reach out more to veterans through activities such as job fairs.
Finally, Gilllibrand says, she is pushing for legislation, titled the Veterans Skills to Jobs Act, which would eliminate much of the "bureaucratic red tape" that makes it difficult for veterans to receive federal certification for the skills they acquired while serving in the military.
"For instance," she said, "if you are driving a truck in Iraq or Afghanistan, you should be able to transfer that knowledge and licensing to be able to drive a taxi cab or a truck here."
Both Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and McCarthy, a member of the House Education and Workforce Committee, also urged all Long Island business owners to hire veterans.
"Our young veterans have an unrivaled work ethic," Gillibrand said. "You want an employee to show up on time? Hire a veteran. Want an employee to work as hard as he or she possible can ... someone who can make do with less, improvise when needed, and work under enormously stressful circumstances? Hire a veteran."
McCarthy added," Let's remember these veterans, what they've gone through. They need our help and we should be there for them, because very honestly, every single one of them has been there for us. Give it back."
On May 23, Adelphi will be hosting a Veterans Employment Summit on its campus from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. The networking event will bring together employers and veterans in a non-pressure atmosphere. Veterans will be able to receive help with writing resumes, participate in mock interviews and obtain other skills. Meanwhile, employers can learn about the tax credits offered and the other benefits of hiring veterans. The program is free and open to the public.