Heffley unveils pro-jobs bill to put veterans back to work
ANDREW LEIBENGUTH/TIMES NEWS Pictured during Rep. Heffley's veterans legislation announcement Wednesday from left are Bill Coll, 2nd Vice Commander, and Jack Anderson, Commander, of the Lansford American Legion; Henry "Hank" Desrosiers, Carbon County's Director of Veterans Affairs; Larry Heffley, member of the Lehighton American Legion; Lee Romito, Marine and Army veteran; Tom Connors Jr., Army veteran; Howard Cotton, Navy veteran; Vincent Costa, Army veteran.
According to a recently released U.S. Department of Labor Statistics report, the unemployment rate of post Sept. 11, 2011 veterans in 2011 was about 12 percent, compared to the unemployment rate of 8.2 percent for non-veterans in Pennsylvania.
Rep. Doyle Heffley (R-122) held a press conference Wednesday to announce pro-jobs legislation he is sponsoring that will help veterans transition back to civilian life easier and put them back into the workforce.
During the press conference, which was held in front of the Lansford American Legion, Rep. Heffley described the reasons for the proposed pro-jobs legislation, explaining that it would ensure that a veteran's military education and training are taking into consideration for the purpose of fulfilling requirements for obtaining a civilian job.
In addition to members from the Lansford and Lehighton American Legion, a row of unemployed veterans stood behind Heffley during the conference. Even though most of them are currently furthering their education, they all pointed out the tough challenges of finding work after college. Sen. Dave Argall (R-29) was also on hand during the press conference showing his strong support for the legislation.
Marine Corps and Army veteran Lee Romito of Lansford talked to the crowd concerning the influx of veterans returning to the workforce. "The military is downsizing and the job market is being flooded with veterans." He added, "I appreciate that Heffley is bringing up this important issue in the House."
To honor returning veterans' service and make their transition home easier, Heffley said it's necessary to ensure they are not made to jump through hoops when applying for a license or certification issued by the Commonwealth that require qualifications they have already received from serving in the military.
Measures in the House Bill 2321 would prevent the duplication of training and education of veterans and get them into civilian careers faster.
Under the legislation, an issuing state agency must consider whether a veteran's military service, education, training and service experience satisfies certain or all licensing or certification requirements.
Hundreds of Pennsylvania's active duty service members and National Guardsmen and reservists transition to civilian life each year. Heffley added, "This had led to an unacceptably high employment rate among veterans, without regard to their period of service."
"Even more alarming is the unemployment rate of male veterans between the ages of 18 to 24, compared to the rate of male non-veterans between those ages," said Heffley.
As you dig deeper in the report, it becomes clear that while the job market is steadily improving for a majority of Americans, it's moving in the reverse direction for Gulf War II vets (defined by the BLS as those on active duty since 2001). The youngest of veterans, aged 18 to 24, had a 30.4 percent jobless rate in October 2011, way up from 18.4 percent a year earlier.
Shannon Eidem, Veteran Employment Representative, Bureau of Workforce Development Partnership, PA Department of Labor & Industry, stated, "Representative Heffley hit the nail on the head when he pointed out the unemployment rate is much higher for Veterans than non-veterans. US Veterans receive the finest training in the world." Adding, "Why should they have to repeat that training for their civilian counterparts."
She also pointed out the upcoming job fair set for Thursday May 10 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Jim Thorpe Memorial Hall. Some of the veteran friendly employers attending the job fair will be Pencor Services, KME Fire Apparatus (Kovatch), Nestle Purina PetCare, Nestles Purina Logistics, The Hershey Company, Precision Roll Grinders, Inc., Split Rock Resorts, United States Cold Storage, Bayada Pediatrics, Auto Zone, Inc., Va Medical Center-Wilkes Barre, Federal Bureau of Prisons, State Civil Service Commission and so on. She pointed out that anyone, not just veterans, may contact her office for help at (570) 325-2701.
Henry "Hank" Desrosiers, director of the Veterans Affairs for Carbon County stated that any veteran with a service connected disability can contact him for vocational rehabilitation. His number is (570) 325-3986.
Eidem, who assists three to five veterans a day, also provided ways her office helps veterans get back into the workforce, such as teaching veterans how to network and interviewing skills, providing more intensive services involving career and skill assessments and job developments, to overcoming employment barriers with case management and referrals. "I speak to employers and encourage them to hire veterans by sharing with them all the skills and qualities veterans bring to a company," said Eidem.
"For military veterans, the transition from service back into civilian life can be a rocky road. Our veterans have the drive, discipline and self-confidence to succeed in any workplace," said Heffley. "This bill takes a huge step forward in easing their transition after they leave the military by helping them transfer the skills they learned in the military into civilian careers."