In 2012, the average unemployment rate for new veterans was 9.9 percent, almost two points higher than the national average of 8.1 percent, but significantly lower than the average of 12.1 percent new vets face in 2011. While we have made progress in the fight against veteran unemployment, the fight is far from over. The systemic challenges that lead to veteran unemployment - including both cultural and legal barriers to employment - remain unsolved. We must ensure that service members who are preparing to transition back into civilian life are equipped with the proper knowledge and tools to make that transition successful.
Veteran unemployment remains unacceptably high. Despite their training, knowledge, and experience, veterans continue to struggle when looking for civilian employment. And with the military drawing down as we close the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the number of veterans looking for employment is only going to increase in the coming years. IAVA is committed to helping veterans find quality employment.
With VOW to Hire Heroes signed into law in 2011, the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) became mandatory for all service members leaving the military. We also know that making TAP mandatory will only help veterans find civilian careers if we improve TAP. The Department of Labor is currently working to revamp the employment resources in TAP to prepare veterans for today’s modern economy. And, the Small Business Administration (SBA) are working to make TAP a great resource for veteran entrepreneurs. When the reforms are complete, separating service members will be able to take one of three tracks based on their future plans - education, employment, or entrepreneurship.
But plans can change, and IAVA believes that allowing veterans to re-take TAP after separating would be valuable in helping veterans find employment at every stage in their career. At separation, a veteran or spouse may choose to continue their education. After graduating, a veteran or spouse who will be embarking on a new phase of life, such as a embarking on a new career or even starting their own small business, would benefit from knowing what programs and assistance they qualify for on this new path.
In addition to working to improve the TAP, IAVA is also pushing Congress to strengthen USERRA. The conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have heavily relied on National Guard and Reserve forces; Guard and Reserve units comprise 28 percent of all service members who deployed in support of OEF/OIF/OND. High deployment rates coupled with uncertainty about when the next deployment may come have made employers nervous. Tens of thousands of Reservists returning from combat are not being promptly re-employed; others are not receiving the full pay, pensions, health care coverage and benefits to which they are entitled. For those whose re-employment rights are being ignored, the Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act (USERRA) offers little relief because right now it cannot be strongly enforced. IAVA recognizes this and is calling on Congress to make substantial reform to USERRA and to provide incentives for hiring National Guardsmen and Reservists.
When veterans think of where to go for help and resources, they think of the VA. Currently, employment resources for veterans are mainly provided by the Department of Labor Veterans Employment and Training Service (DoL VETS), but the VA also provides some resources. Two of the critiques most often heard from veterans is that a multitude of overlapping services cloud options rather than clarify them. Competing programs and services muddle rather than sharpen the focus on getting vets employment. IAVA believes that aligning the resources of VETS with the veteran-centric mission of the VA streamlines control, communication and resources. We can achieve this by moving DoL VETS into the VA. By doing so, we can make the VA the one-stop shop for veterans resources.
TAP Modernization Act of 2012 - This bill extends the TAP program to facilities outside military bases. It will allow veterans to re-take TAP and access additional training such as the new expanded entrepreneurship boot camp after they have left service, or completed school.
Servicemember Employment Protection Act of 2012- This legislation addresses some substantial areas where USERRA protections are lacking and adds some powerful incentives for USERRA compliance and penalties for USERRA violations. By removing USERRA complaints from arbitration, expanding USERRA to protect servicemembers undergoing medical treatment for deployment related injuries and disbarring government contractors who violate USERRA, the scope of USERRA coverage is increased in significant ways.
IAVA has helped thousands of veterans. Here are some of their stories:
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