February 07, 2012

Manchin helps form veterans jobs caucus | The Charleston Gazette

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and a Republican colleague from Illinois announced Tuesday that they formed a bipartisan caucus to help find jobs for 857,000 veterans looking for work.

Sens. Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., also joined the new Senate Veterans Jobs Caucus. Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., who is recovering from a recent stroke, joined Manchin in forming the caucus. In a letter to his Senate colleagues, Manchin wrote, “As you know, one of the few issues that unifies Congress is giving veterans the benefits and respect they have earned and deserve.

“We have a great opportunity to come together and show that we value the skills, talents, and abilities of our veterans — and to show that they will always have this country’s gratitude.”

Rockefeller, the longest-serving member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, said, “I will thoroughly examine any and all ways that Congress can assist veterans in getting good paying jobs.

“I am proud to have three former veterans working on my staff who are assets for the work I do every day. Another staff member of mine recently returned to active duty with my full support,” Rockefeller said.

“I look forward to participating in this caucus and continuing to help veterans get the jobs they deserve after they put everything on the line to protect our country. I commend Senators Manchin and Kirk for founding this important group.” Today, the unemployment rate among post-9/11 veterans remains above the national average, with women veterans experiencing one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation.

Nearly 20 percent of women who have served in the military since Sept. 11, 2001, are currently unemployed.

“Veterans made tremendous sacrifices for this country and it’s our responsibility to support them when they come home,” Tester said. “I expect this group to build on last year’s veterans’ jobs bill and create good job opportunities that honor the service of our men and women in uniform.”

Lawmakers say efforts to help veterans find work are especially important at this time, when combat operations are coming to an end in Iraq and troops are beginning to come home from Afghanistan.

The new Senate Veterans Jobs Caucus will also work to reduce unemployment among members of the National Guard and the Reserves.

Last month, Rockefeller held a meeting where veterans from around the West Virginia met with representatives from higher education institutions, jobs programs, legal assistance for veterans and the Department of Veterans Affairs to help them after they return from active duty.

In November, Congress passed bipartisan legislation that’s meant to create new opportunities for veterans to get hired.

Rockefeller cosponsored a section of the new law to give tax credits to business owners who hire unemployed veterans. Manchin said objectives of the new Senate Veterans Jobs Caucus include:

? Convening monthly events or meetings for senators and staff members to share information about employment initiatives for veterans.

? Working with constituents, as well as government and service organizations, to help find solutions.

? Developing a Senate “I Hire Veterans” program. The program will encourage senators to display the new “I Hire Veterans” logo if they have a veteran or a current member of the military on their staff.

Organizations endorsing the new caucus include: American Veterans (AMVETS), the Military Order of the Purple Heart, the National Association for Uniformed Services, National Guard Association of the United States, National Military Family Association, Non-Commissioned Officers Association and the Retired Enlisted Association.

By:  Paul J. Nyden