Patty in the News

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray continued her series of conversations with the state’s veterans in Navy Yard City on Thursday before making a campaign stop in Bremerton.

The three-term Democratic senator met with five veterans who have found it difficult to find work after military service, and with others trying to help them make the jump.

Murray is being challenged for her seat by Republican Dino Rossi, who has said Murray and other Senate Democrats are stifling recovery by digging the country deeper into debt. Rossi last visited Kitsap in July.

Thursday’s meeting in an office at EHT Enterprises, a construction company that deals with military clients, was part of Murray’s effort to drum up support for a bill designed to make it easier for vets to get jobs.

Mostly, though, Murray listened and asked questions.

The challenges for veterans are many. Much of the conversation was about making military skills marketable in the civilian world.

Leyla Oxford spent nine years in the Army and has a degree in social services, but her time as an MP and in the infantry doesn’t “translate well in the civilian sector,” she said.

Joseph Bataeff, an Army veteran with two quarters left at Peninsula College, said when he returned from Iraq in 2005 an employer told him the company didn’t want to hire veterans.

Tara Hanks, a National Guard member unemployed since February, said one employer told her she was “overqualified.” She heard that as the company’s way of saying it didn’t want to hire someone who might get deployed. “Overqualified is just their way around the laws for discrimination,” she said.

Veterans can get help through the Washington National Guard’s J9 program.

Peter Berrios, an employment transition coach covering the area between Gig Harbor and Forks, told the senator his job is to help veterans translate their military expense into skills they can market to employers. He also works with employers to help get veterans in the door for an interview.

One place Berrios has not been able to make connections, he said, is the shipyard in Bremerton.

Murray said she would follow up with shipyard officials and that she was surprised to hear Berrios’ comment.

Richard Tift, executive director at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility, said the facility works extensively with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and WorkSource Washington on hiring veterans.

“We work hard to support returning vets and wounded warriors to provide opportunities for them,” Tift said, adding that someone from PSNS would be attempting to contact Berrios on Friday.

The bill Murray helped introduce in April, the Veterans Employment Act of 2010, would change existing practices so that exiting military members go through the Transition Assistance Program, designed to help soon-to-be veterans transition well into civilian life, where they plan to live instead of where they’re being discharged.

Murray said she has heard from many veterans who told her the TAP program didn’t work for them, because a trainer in Virginia is unlikely to be up to speed on the work environment in Washington.

Answering Rossi’s criticism about her efforts on the overall economy, Murray pointed to an idea she was promoting when she was in town in March, which would extend about $30 billion in money for local banks to lend to small businesses.

The bill passed the House in June, but is idling in the Senate.

Murray complimented the energy demonstrated by local officers running the J9 program, saying that isn’t necessarily happening in other parts of Washington.

The senator was also schedule to take part in a campaign event Thursday evening in the Kitsap Conference Center’s Fountain Room.

- Kistsap Sun