State Rep. Doyle Heffley's Memorial Day weekend got off to a rewarding start when the House of Representatives unanimously approved a piece of legislation he introduced.
In fact, the bill has special meaning this weekend since it benefits military veterans. House Bill 2321 will make it easier for veterans to qualify for new jobs by having their military training considered as a qualification.
Heffley said his experience in the trucking industry served as the catalyst for the bill. While working in human relations part of the time at the company, he saw how difficult it was to find drivers. Military driving time didn't qualify for licensing, he said.
Under Heffley's legislation, an issuing state agency would have to consider whether a veteran's military service, education, training, and service experience satisfies certain or all licensing or certification requirements.
He said this will prevent duplication of training and education of a veteran and help them establish a civilian career faster.
The bill still must be approved by the state Senate.
"The work ethic and leadership skills of veterans are invaluable and in demand by many employers," Heffley said. "Additionally, veterans also gain a variety of training and education that can lead to family-sustaining jobs upon returning home."
He said U.S. Army veteran Vincent Costa of Jim Thorpe is an example of why the bill is important.
Although Costa served two tours overseas in Iraq and gained six years of experience driving heavy equipment, he hit major roadblocks when he entered the civilian workforce because of the lengthy requirements it took for him to obtain his commercial driver's license.
"Young male veterans between the ages of 18 to 24, who served (in the military) after Sept. 11, 2001, had an unemployment rate of 29.1 percent in 2011," Heffley said. "That's much higher than the 17.6 percent of unemployed young males in that age group who did not serve in the military.
"While serving in the armed forces, veterans, like Vincent, gain skills, knowledge and training that can translate directly into the civilian world. I believe many employers can benefit from these transferable skills."
Heffley said House Bill 2321 is part of his commitment to put more Pennsylvania residents and veterans back to work.
"At the very least, we owe our veterans our support as they begin their transition into civilian life, and that's why I believe my legislation will help to make that transition just a little bit easier," he said.
After he introduced the bill, Heffley was contacted by the secretary from the Northeast Region, Office of Defense who voiced his support of the measure and hoped it receives final passage.
According to Heffley, eight other states have similar bills to the one he introduced in the Pennsylvania State House.