Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., and Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., explained the intricacies of the veterans employment bill they sponsored in their respective chambers. (Photo by Craig Roberts)

Troop Talent Act a hit at historic Legion post

In a Virginia tavern once frequented by George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, James Madison and James Monroe, two members of the current Congress, Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., and Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., came to tout their recently introduced veteran employment bills.

The venue for the May 17, hour-long town hall meeting-style event was the 18th century Gadsby’s Tavern in the historic Old Town section of Alexandria, Va. The tavern building, a National Historic Landmark, is now shared by a restaurant, a museum and American Legion Post 24, itself dating to 1920. Duckworth’s and Kaine’s appearance at the old Legion Post – one of the nation’s first - was appropriate. It was Steve Gonzalez of the Legion’s Economic Division along with Lisa Lutz of SOLID, LLC, a veteran employment consultancy, who were instrumental in the crafting, introduction and promotion of the congresswoman’s and senator’s twin “Troop Talent Acts of 2013.”

An audience of about 60 from private industry, government, veterans support groups and Legion ranks crowded into the colonial relic to hear Kaine, a former governor of Virginia, and Duckworth, a former VA assistant secretary, highlight their bills designed to ease servicemembers’ transitions to civilian employment. Duckworth noted how such measures aimed at lowering unemployment among veterans concurrently help achieve a goal defined by her former boss, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki: to end homelessness among veterans.

Both Duckworth and Kaine paid tribute to The American Legion for its assertive and longstanding campaign to facilitate the transition from MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) to civilian employment post. Duckworth pointed proudly to her membership in American Legion Post 1995 in Centreville, Va., a post her father co-founded. The congresswoman is a 21-year Army veteran and former Black Hawk helicopter pilot who lost both legs and partial use of one arm when her chopper was hit by an RPG (rocket propelled grenade) in Iraq during a combat mission.

According to Kaine, a new member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, chances are very good for passage of the Troop Talent Acts in both the House and Senate. Thanks in part to the Legion’s bipartisan recruitment of support on Capitol Hill, Kaine’s Senate bill now has 10 co-sponsors and Duckworth’s House version has signed on about 60 allies, about half of them Democrats and half Republicans, said Kaine.