American Legion National Commander Clarence Hill was on hand Monday night to witness President Barack Obama sign an executive order establishing a Council on Veterans Employment and a veterans employment program within most federal agencies.
Hill, who attended the signing at the White House and spoke briefly with the president, called the order a move in the right direction. "This is big step toward veterans' hiring. Veterans preference also plays into it," Hill said. "Now the job of implementing this executive order begins, starting (today)."
The Council on Veterans Employment will be chaired by the secretaries of Labor and Veterans Affairs, while the Veterans Employment Program offices will be responsible for helping veterans identify employment opportunities within federal agencies, provide feedback to veterans about employment application statuses, and help veterans recently employed by these agencies adjust to civilian life and a workplace culture often different from military service. Additionally, these offices will ensure that hiring officials understand how to use all the tools available to them to increase the number of veterans employed within their agencies.
The order also requires the Office of Personnel Management to issue a government-wide strategic plan to move the program forward. OPM is partnering with other federal agencies - primarily VA, and the departments of Labor, Defense and Homeland Security - on the development of the plan.
The American Legion was among just three veterans service organizations invited to the signing, joining representatives from the Veterans of Foreign Wars and Disabled American Veterans. Also present were the VA, DoD and Homeland Security secretaries, and OPM officials.
"Veterans preference and veterans employment will get a great assist from what just happened," Hill said. "This is one of the things that we've worked on for a long time."
But Hill said there is still work to be done to further improve veterans employment.
"Folks transitioning out (of the military) that have got military certification find that they have to recertify out in the civilian world. We're trying to get one certification that's good for every state for whatever you're certified," he said. "Clearances are still an issue. If you come out with a (security) clearance and take a job that requires a clearance, you still have to go through the process again. That can take six to nine months. Your military clearance should be sufficient.
"Of course there are still issues with the GI Bill. There are some gaps with on-the-job training, with vocational training and with distance learning. There are still things to do, but this is a great step forward, and I'm happy to have witnessed the president signing this executive order."