WASHINGTON Some job-seeking veterans could catch a break under a bill approved by the House on Monday.
Sponsored by Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock, the legislation will enable vets to apply their military training toward meeting federal license requirements. In theory, this could make it easier for veterans who otherwise might be forced into redundant civilian training.
"If you've had the best training in the world, you ought to be able to get the best job in the world," Denham said during brief House debate.
Denham's bill, approved on a 369-0 vote, directs federal agencies to accept for licensing purposes relevant military training unless it is "substantially different" from the required civilian training.
Federal licenses can be particularly important in the aerospace, communications and maritime industries. Many other licenses, such as those required for emergency medical technicians, are handled primarily by states, where some legislators have started to adopt provisions similar to those proposed for the federal level by Denham's bill.
Unlike routine congressional posturing, Denham's Veteran Skills to Jobs Act appears poised to actually become law.
The Senate has passed its version of the legislation, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida. The bipartisan support helps the bill's prospects, as does the vocal veterans lobby and the poignantly high unemployment rate among those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"I've seen veterans who come home and they can't find a job," Anthony Guerrero, sergeant-at-arms for the American Legion's Department of California and a retired Sanger police sergeant, acknowledged in a telephone interview Monday. "Some find it hard to get a position when they get back from overseas."
Last year, 29 percent of veterans ages 18 to 24 were unemployed, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. Among nonveterans in the same age group, the unemployment rate was 17 percent. The difference in unemployment rate was not as pronounced among older veterans.
Some states, including California, have bigger problems than others, particularly among men and women who have served since the Sept. 11 attacks. While the unemployment rate among these veterans nationwide was 12 percent last year, an estimated 20 percent of California's post-Sept. 11 veterans were unemployed.
"Unfortunately, for many of our veterans, transitioning from service means battling with joblessness," Denham said.
Veterans receive other types of employment assistance, including being given hiring preference from the federal government, and lawmakers regularly support additional measures on their behalf.
Monday, along with Denham's bill, the House approved legislation to boost cost-of-living adjustments for veteran disability payments.