Employment, business and education have percolated to the top of VA's crowded priority list as more than 1 million veterans are currently unemployed nationwide and at least that many are expected to leave the military in the next five years, Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki explained Wednesday in an address to the 93rd National Convention of The American Legion in Minneapolis."These are tough economic times, and that's especially true for veterans," Shinseki told thousands of Legionnaires gathered in the Minneapolis Convention Center. "If we can spend nine weeks in boot camp getting youngsters ready to go operational, we can find the requisite time to properly ensure their successful transition back to their communities, either to go work or to school."Shinseki's address came less than 24 hours after President Obama told Legionnaires how veterans can be deployed to help reverse the nation's economic slide. On Tuesday, Obama shared with Legionnaires a White House initiative to provide tax credits for companies that hire veterans, a development Shinseki said demonstrates the president's "unwavering support of veterans, and of business." He said the credits would apply to long-term and short-term employment opportunities for veterans and a maximum credit of $9,600 per-veteran for firms that hire those with service-connected disabilities.Shinseki added that VA and the Department of Defense "will spearhead a government-wide effort to reform the way members transition out of the military services. Every member will receive the training, education and credentials needed to successfully transition to the civilian workforce or to pursue higher education."He said an important component of the concept is to stimulate growth and success for veteran-owned businesses, including increased federal contracting opportunities. "We know, historically, that veterans hire veterans. So increasing the number of successful small business owners who are veterans increases our opportunity to ensure that veterans will have job opportunities."He also said VA itself has set a goal of increasing its own veteran workforce from 30 percent to 40 percent.Shinseki said more than 840,000 veterans and family members are now using VA education programs, including 518,000 who are partaking of Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits. "This fall, thanks to the Congress, we are going to expand that program to provide vocational training and other non-degree job skills for veterans who want to work but who are not necessarily interested in sitting in a college seat for four years."The secretary rounded out his address by touching on three VA priorities that have been with him for the two and a half years he has held the office: improved access to veterans health-care facilities, elimination of veteran homelessness and VA's backlog of undecided benefits claims.

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