On Nov. 13, The American Legion co-hosted the Association of Latino Professionals in Finance and Accounting (ALPFA ) "Veterans' Initiative" event in Washington, D.C., to discuss ideas on how to meet veterans' employment challenges.
The event's keynote speaker was U.S. Rep. Jeff Denham of California, an an Air Force veteran, member of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs and an active Legionnaire. He, along with the Legion, advocates for streamlined licensing and credentialing of qualified, job-seeking servicemembers and veterans.
"To address the issue of credentialing, I introduced H.R. 4155, the Veteran Skills to Jobs Act, which will cut through bureaucratic obstacles by streamlining the federal certification process to make it easier for veterans to utilize the skills they acquired in the military to find work at home," he said. Denham's bill was signed into law by President Obama in late July.
"There is no reason there should be such persistently high (veterans) unemployment," Denham said. "The Department of Defense spends over $140 billion annually on training our service men and women in job skills that translate to the private sector. This is a mature and ready workforce. They should be able to use their skills right away. I want to salute The American Legion for their aggressive stand on this front and for hosting regular meetings between industry leaders, the Department of Defense and Congress on how to align military training with appropriate credentials."
Denham also warned of the pitfalls of sequestration; the scheduled series of massive cuts to, among others, the Department of Defense budget beginning Jan. 2. "If Congress fails to pass a solution to prevent sequester," he said, "we could see over 350,000 Department of Defense uniformed and civilian personnel positions eliminated. This would not only devastate the ability of our military to conduct operations but would do irreparable damage to the defense industrial base."
Meanwhile, Iraq War veteran and managing director of Military2Career.com Orley Pacheco, moderated the panel discussion, "Serving Those Who Serve Us: Military to Corporate Transition." Pacheco was joined by House Committee on Veterans Affairs staff Juan Lara; The Department of Veterans' Affairs Director of Veteran Employment Services Office Mary Santiago ; Prudential Financial, Inc., Vice President Ray Weeks; Evan Guzman of Verizon's Military Programs and Veterans Affairs Division; and CBS Senior Vice President and Chief Counsel Richard Jones. Lara, Weeks and Jones are Legionnaires.
The ALPFA event also discussed retention efforts as current data indicates that the employment retention rate among veterans is lower than average. This is due in part, say observers, to the differences in military and civilian mindsets — many veterans becoming discouraged by what they regard as lack of direction in corporate settings.
"This is what our (American Legion's) concern is," said Mark Walker, the Economic Division's deputy director. "Not only do we want (veterans) to be employed, but we want them to understand the dynamics and culture of their workplace. We are recommending more mentorships and training within companies. The structure and culture is different in the corporate world than in the military. In the corporate world, there is not necessarily a straightforward, localized, military type chain of command. Veterans can view this negatively.
"So there is a need for mentorship and advocacy for veterans within companies and also a need to train leadership within companies to understand military culture and, thus, the mindset of the veterans they employ. This will take time. A transition is not a day, it's a process."