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Senators Murray, Klobuchar, Begich and Murkowski Introduce Bi-Partisan Comprehensive Veterans Employment Bill

(Washington, D.C.) - April 20, 2010 - U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), a senior member of Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, joined with Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Mark Begich (D-AK), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), veterans, and veterans service organizations to unveil the Veterans Employment Act of 2010. The bill, which was introduced in the Senate today, is the first legislation that takes a comprehensive approach to addressing skyrocketing veterans unemployment rates. The bill includes a series of proposals that improve training, skills transition, education, and small business assistance programs.

"Too often our veterans return home and have their resumes lost in the stack," said Senator Murray. "These are disciplined, dedicated individuals who'll be great employees but who need help translating their skills into civilian careers. We can't continue to pat veterans on the back for their service and then push them out into the job market alone. This is the first comprehensive bill to help veterans go from the battlefield to the working world."

"When our soldiers sign up for service, there isn't a waiting line and there shouldn't be a waiting line when they come home and need a job," said Senator Klobuchar. "Our troops have valuable skills and we need to help them transition their skills and experience into the workforce."

"After the initial excitement of coming home is gone, the reality of the challenges they face sets in. They need to know their government is there for them," said Senator Begich. "They've asked for help with employment, help with opening a small business, and help with using their training in the private sector. This comprehensive legislation will address the unique needs of our veterans who have been struggling to find work and to keep their jobs."

"The legislation fills a critical need," said Senator Murkowski. "Our veterans leave military service with exceptional leadership skills and valuable life lessons. Yet  it is not evident that employers fully appreciate all that our veterans can bring to their workplace. This bill will help our veterans gain the additional skills they need to participate in Alaska's oil and gas industry. It will provide them the opportunity to start their own businesses, if they choose to. And it encourages employers at all levels to recognize that those who've given much in the service of their country have much to offer to a prospective employer."

The Veterans Employment Act expands job training, placement services and entrepreneurship opportunities for veterans who may otherwise have fallen through the cracks of existing programs.

The Veterans Employment Act:

·         Establishes a Veteran Business Center Program within the Small Business Administration (SBA) to provide critical entrepreneurial training and counseling to veterans.

·         Expands the Post-9/11 GI Bill to allow returning veterans to use the benefit for apprenticeship and worker training programs that will help them acquire the skills they need to find stable, family-wage jobs in their communities.

·         Creates pilot programs to test ways transitioning servicemembers can build on the technical skills learned in the military and better market those skills in the civilian workforce.

·         Establishes a Veterans Conservation Corps Grant Program and a Veterans Energy/Green Jobs Grant Program to connect veterans with the green jobs market of the future.

The Veterans Employment Act also takes steps to make current job assistance programs work better for veterans.

The bill:

·         Examines the expansion of the National Guard Employment Enhancement Project (NGEEP), which would provide transition assistance to National Guard members.

·         Requires the Department of Defense and the Department of Labor Veterans Employment and Training Service to examine the Transition Assistance Program for active duty service members and recommend how to update and upgrade the program to meet the needs of today's veterans.

In addition to Senators Klobuchar, Begich, and Murkowski, Senators Harry Reid (D-NV), Richard Durbin (D-IL), and Blanche Lincoln (D-AK) are also original co-sponsors of Senator Murray's bill.

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