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Leyla Ramos: Veterans deserve more employment

Posted: May 3, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: May 3, 2013 2:00 a.m.
 

When our veterans come home from war, they are greeted by "welcome home" signs, banners, applause, hugs and cheers. The popular line "Thank you for your service" is heard time and time again.

During veteran-themed holidays such as Memorial and Veterans days, our nation’s heroes are honored by parades, store discounts and the occasional free meal.

However, once the applause and banners are gone, our country’s veterans need more than a free meal. They need employment.

When joining the military, veterans make an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies and bear truth, faith, and allegiance to our nation. Veterans sacrifice their lives and well-being by going to multiple deployments and being away from there loved ones.

So what is our country and community doing to make sure our nation’s heroes are employed after they leave the service?

Congress has the opportunity to help continue to decrease the unemployment rate in the veteran population. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., introduced the Putting Our Veterans Back to Work Act of 2013.

This bill reauthorizes the Veterans Opportunity to Work (VOW) to Hire Heroes Act of 2011. The bill provides assistance to small businesses owned by veterans and improves re-employment for former members of the armed forces.

For companies that hire veterans, it provides a Work Opportunity Tax Credit from $1,200 to $9,600 each. VOW does not only provide veterans with employment assistance, but also provides $9 million in federal funds for vocational assistance, retraining, mentoring and placement programs.

The total unemployment rate for veterans who have served in the military since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, is 9.9 percent compared to the unemployment rate of 7.7 percent for non-veterans.

California holds the largest veteran population in the United States with a total of 1,844,803 veterans. The Santa Clarita Valley is home to approximately 9,045 veterans, 700 of whom have served in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Employers should be eager to hire veterans as they have skills, experience and are highly motivated workers. Even though many veterans do not have a college degree, many have at least four years’ experience in their field of work.

For example, an Army chemical operations specialist with four years’ experience is equivalent to a maintenance manager with a bachelors degree with three years of manufacturing experience.

Veteran employees bring experience, specialized skills, leadership and are able to perform their jobs in high-stress situations, which they have done in combat operations.

In order to help decrease the veteran unemployment rate, Congress needs to not only reauthorize VOW but also improve the transitional processes through the community level.

There are numerous ways the Santa Clarita Valley community and local employers can integrate the programs that are offered through VOW to local residents.

The community should establish working relationships with federal, state, local business and nonprofit organizations into a one-stop shop or veterans’ community center where services that are high in demand by veterans would be offered. Those include employment and vocational counseling, mentoring programs, homeless preventions, legal aid, veteran benefits information and mental health counseling.

Transitioning from military to civilian life can be a very confusing process. When veterans leave the military, many of them are not concerned about how to complete a resume or be informed of their benefits.

As an Army veteran myself, when I left the service I was more interested in leaving the service then knowing about my benefits.

Communities that recognize veterans’ need for employment and stand ready to assist them provide a tremendous service and secure quality workers for their businesses.

Leyla Ramos is a master of social work graduate student at the University of Southern California. For four months she has developed a project for a class that is centered on veterans and their needs.

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