March 27, 2012

Manchin rallies support for hiring veterans | The State Journal

CHARLESTON - U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is hoping to add one symbol to storefronts and businesses that means a little more to veterans than yellow ribbon and American flag decals.

"We've shown many different ways to support our troops," Manchin said during a media call Tuesday morning. "I think you'll al remember the yellow ribbon … we fly the American flag, and we do everything we can to show the sacrifices that have been made for us.

"Veterans today are going to need more than that."

Manchin launched a Senate caucus, called "I Hire Veterans," in early February with Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill. Now 28 senators are part of the caucus, including Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va.

Manchin said the unemployment numbers among veterans has reached historic proportions.

In February, nearly 780,000 veterans were unemployed, and as numbers of troops in the Middle East are reduced, about 100,000 more vets will be looking for jobs, Manchin said.

Manchin cited statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that show the average unemployment rate in the U.S. in 2011 was 8.9 percent, but the rate of unemployment among anyone who was a member of the U.S. Armed Services since September 2001 was 12.1 percent.

"It doesn't make any sense to me at all that veterans' unemployment is worse than the population as a whole," he said.

Manchin said the unemployment rate among male veterans between the ages of 18 and 24 was 29.1 percent in 2011.

"We we are going to do is bring public awareness," Manchin said about the caucus. "There are good programs out there, but it has not risen to the height it should be. We're going to try to fill in the gaps so we can make it easier."

Manchin said there are many "meaningful, well-intentioned programs," but they're not being utilized properly.

The caucus is scheduled to meet with Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis and officials from the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs to discuss ways to expand the movement and get the public more involved.

"This is the one issue that brings us together," Manchin said.

Manchin said he has three veterans in his offices, making up about 10 percent of his 30-person work force.

"This program complements everything we've been doing, but simplifies it and puts a face on it," he said.

Manchin said the issue of putting veterans back to work is a piece of the larger economic puzzle.

By:  Ann Ali