The American Legion's persistent efforts to improve job prospects for veterans were recognized during the final debate between President Barack Obama and GOP challenger Mitt Romney on Oct. 22. For years, the Legion has pushed to fairly and easily convert military experience into credits toward certification and licensure in a number of trades and career paths. Obama touched on this important matter during the debate. "What I think the American people recognize is after a decade of war it's time to do some nation building here at home," he said. "And what we can now do is ...put Americans back to work, especially our veterans ... making sure that the certifications that they need for good jobs of the future are in place."
He continued, "I was having lunch with a veteran who had been a medic dealing with the most extreme circumstances. When he came home and he wanted to become a nurse, he had to start from scratch. And what we've said is let's change those certifications."
There is no debate from Romney over this matter. The presidential contender addressed the issue during an appearance at The American Legion's 94th National Convention in August, telling some 10,000 veterans, "To make it easier for veterans to find employment in skilled trades, I will work with the states to create a common credentialing and licensing standard, and encourage credentialing organizations to recognize and grant credit for military training."
American Legion National Commander James E. Koutz said he was "heartened to hear the licensing and credentialing issue being brought to the fore in this election campaign. It is apparently important to both the incumbent and the contender that our veterans are given the best and fairest possible opportunities for employment as they return to our communities. While our 15-year campaign is far from over, President Obama and Governor Romney's bringing it to ‘top of mind' advances the Legion's cause greatly."
The candidates' stated positions regarding the expeditious issuance of certifications and licenses to experienced and qualified veterans can be viewed as a direct result of The American Legion, whose Economic Commission has made the issue a high priority since the mid-1990s. The Legion teamed up with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in February to conduct a National Credentialing Summit to find solutions to a decades-long problem. The Legion then worked with Congress to draft and pass two bills – the Veteran Skills to Jobs Act and the Military CDL Act of 2012 – which aim to give veterans advantages when pursuing licenses and certification in civilian and government careers.
Thanks to Legion efforts, legislation is now in place mandating a study by federal agencies that grant licenses and certifications, such as the FAA and FCC, on how they can best serve servicemembers and veterans. Obama also recently signed into law the Military Commercial Drivers License Act of 2012, allowing states to, at their choosing, lift residency requirements to grant commercial licenses to active-duty and reserve military truck drivers, thus creating immediate job opportunities for as many as 200,000 military trained and experienced drivers. This new law was backed strongly by The American Legion, the sole veterans' service organization to formally encourage its passage.