Murray Examines Employment Barriers Faced by Veterans

Jun 13 2007

Murray outlines critical needs; looks at efforts by the VA, DoD, and DoL to address veteran employment problems

AUDIO –  Senator Murray's opening statement from today's hearing.  

(Washington D.C.) - Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) took part in a Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee hearing that examined the federal government's efforts to assist veterans in securing employment. Unemployment among veterans has been a serious area of concern in their transition back to civilian life. According to the Department of Labor, the unemployment rate among 20-24 year olds is consistently higher than the rate among non-veterans of the same age. Senator Murray has worked to address this issue in her Employment and Workplace Safety Committee and through veteran employment events she has hosted in Washington state. 

"Our nation's veterans have all the character necessary to succeed in the working world – they are disciplined team players who have proven that they can perform under pressure," Murray said during today's hearing. "All they need is someone to provide a helping hand. We need to ensure that the VA, DoD, and DoL are there to give that support."

Senator Murray heard from officials from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the Department of Defense (DoD), and the Department of Labor (DoL) on their efforts to help find veterans employment. She also heard from private sector organizations that are working to match employers with veterans and from veterans who have personally struggled to find employment after returning home. 

View the testimony of any of these witnesses. 

The following is Senator Murray's opening statement (as prepared) from today's hearing:

Thank you Mr. Chairman. I would like to thank you and Ranking Member Craig for holding this hearing on the employment benefits provided to our men and women in uniform as they transition from the military to civilian life.  

I want to start by saying that as Chairman of the Employment and Workplace Safety Subcommittee, I am glad that we are holding this hearing today. I have worked to explore this issue in my own committee and have spoken with many of the men and women who are facing employment challenges when they return home. Those hearings and conversations have allowed me to get an idea of some of our most critical needs.  

  1. Civilian and veteran organizations need to work together to reach out to returning soldiers. Across our nation we have trained professionals that are willing and able to serve returning service members but they face barriers in accessing information about these soldiers directly. We need to think creatively about connecting these providers with soldiers who need their help. 

    2) We need to provide job information and resources at a better time. Soldiers returning from war have so much on their mind while demobilizing. We need to find a better way to communicate important job information to them at a time when they are not already overburdened.  

    3) We need to address the challenges small business owners face in hiring vets. Because of unpredictable tours of duty, small business owners bear the high cost of turnover and training when soldiers deploy.  Tax credits to help cover these costs would help them do the right thing and employ soldiers and veterans. 

    4) We need to ensure that the skills service members are learning in the field are transferable to the jobs they seek when they return home.  I have spoken with returning service members whose only restrictions in performing a comparable job to one they performed in the military is learning the language of that trade here at home. We need to help provide them with that critical link.   

    5) Finally, we need to strengthen training and education support.
    Returning soldiers often need salary and benefits during a transitional year to help support their families pursue career training.  The credits they receive for this training need to be transferable and recognizable.

In Washington state, I'm proud to say that we are moving proactively toward addressing some of these needs.  Our Employment Security Commissioner has worked tirelessly to promote the Hire-A-Vet Challenge, an initiative that encourages businesses to hire returning National Guard and Reservists.  Last year, the State legislature created the Veterans Innovation Program board to work with Washington's Department of Veteran Affairs in meeting the needs of returning Reservists and National Guard members.  And I am sure there are similar efforts happening in states all across the country.  

Our nation's veterans have all the character necessary to succeed in the working world – they are disciplined team players who have proven that they can perform under pressure. All they need is someone to provide a helping hand. We need to ensure that the VA, DoD and DoL are there to give that support. Whether it is assistance in basic job skills, access to information and services, support for businesses who want to hire veterans, or a safety net during their transition, the federal government needs to step up to the plate.  

Our men and women who are fighting overseas face incredibly dangerous and stressful situations on the battlefield. It is imperative that we not add to the stress by burdening them with worries about their job, their business, or their spouse and children.  We know that helping our service members transition into civilian life is a fundamental cost of war. 
As I have said countless times, I believe how we treat our veterans when they come home is an indication of the character of our nation.  We have to find a way to make the transition from soldier to citizen a smoother one.     

Thank you Mr. Chairman.