Working with Our Veterans

Published on Monday, 12 August 2013 21:42
Written by thenebraskasigna

By Senator Mike Johanns

Many of our military men and women have honorably served our nation, putting themselves into harm’s way to defend our freedoms, only to return home to an anemic job market and unnecessary employment hurdles. Often, veterans, who have gained valuable skills and work experience while in uniform, face new challenges putting their talents to work right here at home, whether it be working a trade or starting a business.

Last week, I hosted a business roundtable with Nebraska veterans who own small businesses to discuss the challenges they face. As a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, it’s important for me to better understand how programs in place for veteran-owned businesses are working, and identify opportunities for improvement. Our veterans have given so much for our country; we must strive to ensure they have the tools they need to be successful following their tours of duty.

Many at the roundtable shared stories of sifting through unreasonable paperwork and regulatory requirements from the federal government—a theme that is all too common for business owners. When seeking certification as a veteran-owned business through the Veterans Administration (VA), onerous bureaucratic requirements can prevent many qualified businesses from completing the process, hindering their chances when vying for contracts with the Pentagon, or other industry-specific opportunities.

Businesses are not the only ones who must deal with red tape. Individual veterans eager to apply their knowledge and experience from their service also face challenges getting certified for the same jobs as civilians. For instance, folks who may have served as medics or computer technicians in a demanding environment return home to find that they must undergo redundant training and testing to meet civilian certification requirements.

The endless red tape can be daunting for veterans trying to start a small business or find a job using their military training.  To ease the burden, I introduced legislation last year with Senator Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) to streamline certification requirements between the Department of Defense and state licensing offices. The HIRE at Home Act, was signed into law last year. This is a positive step toward reducing hoops our veterans must jump through to do a job they’ve demonstrated they can perform while on the battlefield. I have also cosponsored various other proposals to assist our veterans with a proven ability to fill civilian jobs.

For folks looking to work in a trade, I introduced a bill with Senator Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) to promote hiring veterans for apprenticeships or on-the-job training. This bipartisan legislation strengthens an existing program to help cover a portion of the salaries for veterans in training.

These legislative efforts are designed to improve the landscape for all veterans seeking civilian employment. For more specialized cases in which individual veterans need assistance with a federal program or agency, I have an experienced team ready to assist veterans. I encourage you to contact my office if we can be of assistance.

Veterans and their families have put so much on the line serving our nation, and it is a privilege for me to focus time and energy ensuring we, as a country, keep our promise to them.