Opinion

Supporting our veterans with bill to include job training and apprenticeship programs/ My Turn

As the daughter of a disabled World War II veteran, I grew up in Bothell knowing the sacrifice our veterans and their families make for our country firsthand.  And today, those who have served us in Iraq and Afghanistan are returning from service to a particularly difficult job market.  These brave men and women were the first to stand up and say, “I want to serve,” but they are oftentimes the last to find employment when they return home.

Recently, the Department of Labor reported that one in five young Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who have returned home can’t find a job, a rate much higher than that of their civilian peers. While these numbers are deeply troubling, to me they weren’t surprising. 

I’ve been hearing from veterans around Washington state about the specific difficulties they face in finding employment.  I’ve traveled across Washington talking to veterans about this issue. And in towns large and small, I asked why it’s been so hard and why a group that seems so qualified to smoothly transition into the work force has found it so difficult.

Many veterans tell me that they often leave off the fact that they are veterans from their resume because of the stigma of the invisible wounds of war.

National Guard members talk of coming home to find they had been laid off because their job no longer existed at the company they left behind.

Others tell me that Pentagon and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) transition programs simply aren’t working. And that they struggle to have employers understand how the technical skills they learned in the military will translate to help them in the civilian working world.

This is flat-out unacceptable and their stories spurred me to introduce bipartisan legislation last week that will break down the barriers to veterans in the job market. 

My bill includes an expansion of the Post 9/11 GI Bill to include job training and apprenticeship programs.

It sets up a Veterans Business Center within the Small Business Administration to help our veterans get the skills and resources to start their own businesses. And we know that when veterans open their own businesses, they hire other veterans.

It expands innovative state programs like the Conservation Corps program in Washington state that provides veterans with access to education and allows them to reconnect with other veterans while improving our land and communities.

It also provides our National Guard members with the transition services they deserve when they come home from serving our nation.

With new veterans returning every day and our economy starting to turn the corner, we can’t leave our veterans behind.

It’s time to take real, comprehensive, steps to help veterans get jobs and ensure they never again go from fighting for America overseas to fighting just to get an interview.

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., is a Bothell native.

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