When servicemembers come home, it's imperative they either have jobs waiting for them or can easily find them. Certainly they make attractive employees; while these men and women were protecting and fighting for our country, they were also acquiring valuable skills that directly translate to the civilian workforce.
Those who served honorably deserve a path to financial stability for themselves and their families. It makes sense, then, that veterans are able to capitalize on their military experience once they're ready to hang up their uniforms and pursue their dreams. Unfortunately, they're often expected to undergo the civilian equivalent of training they've already had – a practice that's inefficient and unfair.
The American Legion's Economic Commission is engaging this issue on two fronts: pushing states to pass credentialing bills that will allow veterans to put their service-learned skills to use in the public and private career fields, and at the local level, directly connecting veterans to employers at hundreds of job fairs the Legion hosts or co-hosts throughout the year.
Since last year's success in getting legislation passed that loosens federal credentialing requirements for veterans, the Legion has been focused on state-mandated requirements. Our goal is to persuade all 50 state legislatures to pass credentialing legislation on par with the federal laws. So far, 37 either have passed or are debating such legislation.
Still, we have a long way to go, and we need the help of our members. Legionnaires can call their state lawmakers directly and explain to them why we must pass legislation removing obstacles for veterans whose training and skills should count toward professional certification.
We've seen results in departments such as Arizona, Indiana, Georgia and Maryland, where Legionnaires organized "call teams" to successfully encourage local representatives to support credentialing legislation.
As for veterans who didn't receive specialized training in the military, the Legion is working on their behalf, too. We've joined with RecruitMilitary LLC, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Military.com and other organizations to sponsor job fairs where veterans meet face to face with employers in environments where they can communicate what they learned in the military. The Legion helped put on more than 1,200 job fairs nationwide in 2012, from big cities to rural towns. Thousands of veterans were hired, and we're aiming higher in 2013.
Many times, American Legion posts are the sites for these events, giving Legionnaires an opportunity to get involved by recruiting local employers, organizing the event, publicizing it, and inviting local and state Chamber of Commerce officials. Not sure where to start? Contact the Economic Division at (202) 861-2700 or firstname.lastname@example.org .
Veterans really don't want a handout. They want a handshake upon accepting a job offer.