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Sullivan, Heitkamp, Harris Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Boost Federal Employment Opportunities for Vets

Legislation Would Strengthen Advocacy for Veterans across 24 Federal Agencies, including USDA and HHS, Where Only 12% and 7% of Workers Are Veterans


WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), and Kamala Harris (D-CA) today introduced the bipartisan Empowering Federal Employment for Veterans Act to make sure federal agencies do everything they can to connect veterans with jobs that fit their skillsets in the federal government.


When veterans transition to civilian life, they have a variety of skills and talents from serving in the armed forces—and those skills are major assets in civilian jobs as well. The Empowering Federal Employment for Veterans Act would require large federal agencies to have full-time advocates for veterans’ employment, and would promote career development for veterans within agencies.


Although veterans made up 31 percent of the federal workforce overall in 2015, only 12 percent of workers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and 7 percent of workers at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services were veterans, according to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM). Those statistics reinforce that more progress can be made at a variety of federal agencies with the help of this legislation.


“Veterans and members of our military pick up many incredible skill sets during their service in the Armed Forces,” said Sullivan. “Unfortunately, upon returning home and transitioning back into civilian life, their valuable skills sometimes go untapped or unrecognized by prospective employers. As a Senate co-chair of the Congressional Veterans Jobs Caucus, I remain committed to working with veteran service organizations, federal agencies and private sector employers to help our veterans secure jobs and succeed at them. I am pleased to have worked with Senator Heitkamp on this bipartisan legislation which aims to do just that.”


“By connecting veterans with federal jobs that match their skills, our bipartisan bill can improve the long-term wellbeing of veterans—while also making the federal government work better,” said Heitkamp. “When veterans take off the uniform, they bring with them leadership skills, a strong work ethic, and a host of specialized skills and knowledge. Those skills can be put to great use in any number of jobs—and roles at federal agencies should be no exception. Our bill would make sure we’re doing everything we can to connect veterans with jobs that match their unique abilities and career goals.”


“California’s veterans and their families have made immeasurable contributions to America’s national security and sacrifices for our country,” said Harris. “It is our duty to ensure they can build and maintain a sustainable future when transitioning out of military service. This legislation would strengthen the federal government’s role to advocate for veterans’ employment and provide opportunities for them in federal agencies. I am proud to work with my colleagues to enhance employment opportunities for veterans.”


The legislation would strengthen the level of advocacy for veterans’ employment at federal agencies by requiring Veterans Employment Program Offices with full-time staff and budgets at 24 of the largest federal departments and agencies. It would also make permanent the interagency Council on Veterans Employment—co-chaired by the Secretary of Labor and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, with the OPM Director as vice chair—to promote coordination among veterans employment offices across agencies. It would also require OPM to facilitate resource and information sharing among various agencies’ Veterans Employment Program Offices.


To promote career development for veterans, the legislation would expand veterans counseling and training programs to agencies beyond the U.S. Departments of Defense, Labor, Veterans Affairs, and Homeland Security. It would also expand the Defense Department’s SkillsBridge program, which provides internships for transitioning servicemembers during their last six months of service, to include opportunities to intern at agencies across the federal government.


Click here to read a summary of the bill.


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