April 10, 2012

Hiring veterans remains priority on all levels | Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT — At the local, state and national levels, hiring veterans is a priority.

On Feb. 7, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., officially started the Senate Veterans Jobs Caucus with his colleague Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., and they have been building momentum for this effort ever since. The new caucus is made up of 29 members, both Democratic and Republican senators.

The “I Hire Veterans” initiative was born out of the Senate Veterans Jobs Caucus and is one of many endeavors the bipartisan group is leading to try to solve the unemployment crisis with veterans in the country. According to Manchin’s office, 857,000 veterans in the United States are unemployed.

A kickoff event for the program was held in Washington, D.C., on March 28. That day, Manchin also promoted the “I Hire Veterans” project on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

Since then, Manchin has been working to get the word out to the public about this movement to help returning service members — who are dedicated and equipped with great skills and talents — find employment.

He has been encouraging businesses that have hired veterans to download the “I Hire Veterans” logo and place it in their windows, and people to use the services of those businesses. The logo is available at manchin.senate.gov.

“Think of this as the new Yellow Ribbon,” Manchin said in a press release. “Unemployment is one of the biggest problems our service members are facing, so we wanted to show that we can walk the walk when it comes to hiring veterans. Veterans who have served this country are so skilled and qualified for so many jobs, and they’ve proven to be undeniable assets in our Senate offices and in businesses throughout this nation.”

He continued, “We’re so proud to display this logo as a sign of our commitment to ending the veterans’ unemployment crisis, and we invite members of the public — especially business owners — to join us. And I hope that consumers who are shopping at different stores take their business to stores that hire veterans as a sign of their support. Looking ahead, this simple logo is just the first of many ways we can work together to do more to hire veterans.”

Manchin has been speaking about the program during his two-week “Fighting for Every Job” tour, which continues this week with more stops across West Virginia. Last week, he made appearances in Fairmont and Morgantown.

In addition to creating the “I Hire Veterans” program with the logo, the Senate Veterans Jobs Caucus will organize monthly events for members to talk about veterans employment initiatives, and team up with constituents, government and service organizations to respond to issues. The group will also work with local, state and national employers on efforts.

“I’m very glad that they are doing this on the federal level,” said Marion County Delegate Linda Longstreth.

She believes the work lawmakers are doing nationally to support the hiring of veterans is wonderful. But on the state level, West Virginia has also been pursuing ways to assist veterans for several years and has taken steps to create a veteran-friendly environment, she said.

Longstreth, who is vice chair of the House’s Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, is a veteran herself. She served in the Army and came out a staff sergeant.

“I try to work very closely with our veterans here,” she said. Longstreth said she is proud of a bill she sponsored and the Legislature recently passed to help veterans get credit for their training. This legislation provides incentives for people to hire veterans based on the training and education they received in the military.

The law allows veterans to get college credit for their military education, training and experience in order to obtain the appropriate licenses, she said. The idea is to give those individuals credit so they can continue their education based on what they have learned in the military. This will allow veterans to better use their experience to find work, Longstreth said.

“It sort of connects with ‘I Hire Veterans,’” she said.

Longstreth stressed that endeavors to assist unemployed veterans in obtaining good jobs will continue in the state. “A lot more can be done,” she said.

By:  Jessica Borders
Source: 'I Hire Veterans' new endeavor to help solve unemployment crisis