Sep 13 2012
Senator offers amendments to create an Internet jobs clearinghouse specifically for veterans, encourage the Senate to hire veterans, and waive civilian licensing requirements for veterans who performed energy and construction jobs
Washington, D.C. – With tens of thousands of American troops slated to return home to a tough economy, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) announced in a floor speech today that he will strongly support the Veterans Jobs Corps Act and offered three commonsense amendments to expand veterans hiring.
“As this country mourns for those we have lost in Libya and those who remain in harm’s way to keep us all safe, we are reminded of the sacred debt that we owe the men and women who put their lives on the line for us,” said Senator Manchin, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “No matter the generation and no matter the war – America’s soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen are always tough, always determined and always victorious. Even when we have asked the impossible of them, they have served us well. But how well have we served them? How well have we kept our sacred promise to care for those who, as Abraham Lincoln said, have “borne the battle” for us and for this great country of ours?
“The Veterans Jobs Corps Act is an opportunity to make good on that promise. But it’s more than an opportunity. It is an obligation. It is a duty. It is a privilege.”
Senator Manchin’s three amendments include:
- The “iConnect Veterans to Jobs” amendment, which would require a one-stop, consolidated web portal for veterans seeking employment. The site would streamline the job search process for veterans and employers who are trying to hire veterans;
- The “I Hire Veterans” amendment, which would encourage members of Congress to lead by example by hiring veterans and members of the National Guard and Reserve in their offices;
- The “Energy Jobs Veterans Licensing” amendment to allow military training to count as credit for civilian professional licensing requirements in the fields of natural resource extraction, construction and trade.
Full text of Senator Manchin’s speech, as prepared for delivery, is below.
As this country mourns for those we have lost in Libya and those who remain in harm’s way to keep us all safe, we are reminded of the sacred debt that we owe the men and women who put their lives on the line for us every day.
No matter the generation and no matter the war – America’s soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen are always tough, always determined and always victorious. Even when we have asked the impossible of them, they have served us well.
But how well have we served them? How well have we kept our sacred promise to care for those who, as Abraham Lincoln said, have “borne the battle” for us and for this great country of ours?
The Veterans Jobs Corps Act is an opportunity to make good on that promise. But it’s more than an opportunity.
It is an obligation.
It is a duty.
It is a privilege.
And it is one of the best “Welcome Home” celebrations we could give the men and women in our armed forces as well as the 9/11 Generation of their families: more than a million military spouses and two million children – many of whom have lived their entire lives in a nation at war.
Today, one of our nation’s great challenges is a new generation of veterans coming home to a weak economy. Those veterans are disciplined and have some of the best training in the world. But now those veterans, who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan now fight for jobs. The unemployment rate for those post 9/11 veterans is 10.9 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in August – and that’s well above the national average.
That’s just unacceptable. That’s why every day in the United States Senate, I stand with our veterans, 24/7. That’s why one of my top priorities in the Senate has been – and will continue to be – to make sure there are good jobs for our returning veterans.
I am particularly pleased that the Veterans Jobs Corps Act includes provisions to provide veterans with access to the Internet and computers to assist them in their job searches. This is important because, as we all know, today’s veterans are tech-savvy.
I’ve talked with Labor Secretary Solis about establishing an Internet portal for job seekers, and I will be working closely with the Secretary to make sure this provision of the Act is up and running as quickly as possible.
I do, however, suggest that we amend the legislation so that it is abundantly clear that employment opportunities available through the Veterans Jobs Corps are maintained on one Internet portal – a simple one-stop center for job seekers. In this technology age, we need a central clearinghouse to match veterans with available jobs.
I also want to propose two more amendments to the Veterans Jobs Corps Act.
First, as written, the legislation addresses commercial drivers’ licenses, but not construction equipment or heavy equipment operating licenses. I suggest we amend the legislation to include reciprocity on licensure, which, clearly, will make it easier for veterans to get jobs operating this heavy equipment at construction and energy extraction sites. They’ve been doing those jobs every day in the military – there’s no reason they should have to face new hurdles to get a new license for the same work here at home.
And second, I would like the legislation to encourage members of Congress to lead by example and hire qualified veterans for openings in their offices, both here and at home. I proudly display the “I Hire Veterans” logo in my office as part of the commitment I have made – along with other members of the Senate Veterans Jobs Caucus – to ending our veterans’ unemployment crisis.
In fact, while I was in my great state during our most recent state work period, I had the privilege of working with a private-sector partner, DuPont, which has joined the “I Hire Veterans” project. They have committed to making sure 10 percent of its incoming workforce is veterans. This project is our new yellow ribbon, and as I’ve always said, if you want to help a vet, hire a vet – and then do business with the folks who hire vets.
I’ve seen firsthand the positive impact veterans have on our economy. Leadership, teamwork, commitment and trust – these are the hallmark qualities of our military heroes. And these are skills every American business – big or small – can use today.
Like every generation of warriors, today’s young veterans make great hires. Their resumes include maturity, crisis management skills and loyalty, and those resumes should be at the top of every employer’s stack.
Patriotism requires many things, and one requirement is to keep faith with those who’ve worn the uniform of the United States of America. It is one thing to recall Lincoln’s immortal words and the commitment to those who have “borne the battle.” It is another thing to live by them – to always stand with the men and women who have kept this nation safe and free.
They answered the call. We must do so as well, and I’m proud to support this legislation.
Three million veterans have returned from military service over the past 10 years. And another one million are expected to return to civilian life over the next five years.
Can we rise to the challenge, the way our warriors did in Iraq and Afghanistan? Can we make sure our economy is ready for them?
Of course we can – and just as importantly, we must.
So, I ask all my colleagues – Democrats and Republicans – to please vote yes on this most important piece of legislation.