AUSTINTOWN - With Ohio's unemployment rate for veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq at nearly 14 percent - almost double the state's overall unemployment rate - a Senate bill that would help returning vets get work with the credentials they earned in the military is getting bi-partisan support.
Democrat U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, a key co-sponsor of the bill that's making its way through the Veterans Affairs and Armed Services committees, says he believes what's being called the Troop Talent Act of 2013 would ease the transition of service members back into the civilian work force.
Brown, at a press conference Tuesday at the American Legion Post 301 in Austintown, said the bill, in part, would provide ''joint certification'' of sorts by providing troops earlier and more frequent information about earning civilian credentials that line up with their military training.
''If you're trained to be a mechanic in the Army, you ought to have an advantage or a leg up to become a mechanic, to be certified as a mechanic, to be certified as a truck driver,'' said Brown, a senior member of the Veterans Affairs Committee.
The bill, Brown said, ''sends a message'' to the DOD to think about exiting military members and ''what they are prepared to do in the future'' rather than letting them convert to civilian life unready and without DOD assistance.
Joining Brown was Marine Corps. Sgt. Bryant Jackson, a field operator during his service who is among the growing number of former troops finding it difficult to transfer his military skills to non-military work.
Bryant Jackson, 26, of Youngstown, a recipient of the Purple Heart, speaks at Tuesday’s press conference at American Legion Post 301 in Austintown. Photo by Ron Selak Jr.
''That has been the most challenging part, is trying to apply those skills,'' said Jackson, a Purple Heart recipient for injuries he sustained to his knee in an improvised explosive device attack in Afghanistan. ''Most places kind of overlook military experience, they just kind of look at it as a gap in employment.''
Jackson, 26, of Youngstown, is working as a correctional officer in Mahoning County while a senior studying sociology at the University of Phoenix.
In addition, the bill would create standards for programs that guarantee a credential after completion and increase access to service members in on-demand fields by expanding the DoD credentialing program.