The American Legion-backed Veteran Skills to Jobs Act is moving to the desk of President Obama for signature. The final version of the legislation, which is designed to make it easier for qualified veterans to obtain licenses and credentials for specific civilian careers, was passed Wednesday by a unanimous Senate vote.
The act is, in part, the culmination of a concerted effort by the Legion to seek proper civilian recognition of, and credit for, military vocational and professional training and experience in an effort to eliminate time-consuming, expensive and redundant training and procedures for veterans who gained on-duty experience while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.
American Legion National Commander Fang A. Wong expressed his appreciation to Congress. "This is a significant victory in The American Legion's longstanding and assertive campaign to streamline the civilian licensing and credentialing of our highly trained and skilled veterans," he said. "We are grateful to the legislation's authors and sponsors for their praiseworthy bipartisan efforts on this issue. We are especially pleased that all voting members of Congress chose to do the right thing for our nation's job-seeking veterans."
The Veteran Skills to Jobs Act was introduced last spring by Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., and Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., in the House and Senate, respectively. It moved through both chambers without opposition.
Before the final vote Wednesday, Nelson argued, "Our servicemembers have already done the hardest job out there. They are highly trained, they are extremely skilled and we ought to give them as many opportunities as possible to succeed when they get home. That means when veterans come back from war, they shouldn't have to do battle with bureaucrats."
Nelson went on to acknowledge the Legion's role in pushing the legislation forward and asked that "The American Legion's commentary on this be entered (into) the Congressional Record." The document Nelson referred to was a March 30 letter of support from the national commander.
The text of the bill is succinct:
The head of each Federal department or agency shall ensure that an applicant for any Federal license who has received relevant training while serving as a member of the Armed Forces, as determined by each head, is deemed to satisfy any training or certification requirements for the license unless the training received by such applicant is found to be substantially different from the training or certification requirements for the license.
Anticipating enactment of the Veterans Skills to Jobs Act, The American Legion's Economic Division in Washington has already begun talks with affected federal agencies – primarily in the aerospace, communications and maritime sectors – to help them determine the relevancy of specific military training and experience to their respective licensing and certification requirements.
"This legislation goes a long way toward assisting veterans seeking federal licenses," said Joe Sharpe, the Legion's Economic Division director. "But there is still a great deal of work to do at the state level and with private-sector licensing and certification bodies."
The Legion has been hosting a continuing series of meetings and consultations with government, state and private-sector representatives, including a two-day licensing and credentialing summit last February at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.