Robert Madden, assistant director of The American Legion's Economic Division, shares his thoughts at a House Veterans' Affairs Committee roundtable on veterans employment. Craig Roberts

Joblessness on the table

The American Legion shared its ideas on how to get more jobs for veterans at a May 26 roundtable held in Washington by the House Veterans' Affairs Committee.

Hosted by Committee Chair Rep. Bob Filner, D-Calif., the gathering had representatives from eight veterans service organizations, including Robert Madden, assistant director of The American Legion's Economic Division. Its purpose was to discuss joblessness among veterans, highlight successes of some top military-friendly businesses, discuss stakeholder plans to help employ more veterans, and suggest measures Congress can take to assist veterans in their job search.

In his prepared remarks for the roundtable, Madden said the current levels of unemployment among veterans called for "drastic solutions." He listed four steps The American Legion is supporting to get veterans back to work: hiring more veterans in the private sector, extending GI Bill benefits to vocational and training schools, strengthening veterans' preference and creating more hiring fairs.

Madden told the House roundtable that the federal government needs to spread the word in the private sector about the many qualities that veterans can offer employers. "Hiring veterans is good for business. It doesn't get much simpler than this," he said.

The American Legion wants Congress to extend Post-9/11 GI Bill education benefits to vocational and training schools. Madden pointed out that many veterans seek such education because it takes less time than traditional schools and gives them skills that can lead to immediate employment."Veterans should be allowed to choose their own education and career path," Madden said.

Veterans' preference for federal jobs "is being thwarted and usurped," according to Madden. "With programs such as the Federal Career Intern Program, veterans are being passed over for direct hires. Veterans preference needs to be properly implemented."

More hiring fairs for veterans - where they can interview for real job openings - should become a priority for federal agencies, Madden said. Such fairs have been successful before, hiring veterans "on the spot."

In closing, Madden highlighted the need to train veterans so they can market their military skills effectively in the civilian job market. "We need to be training veterans more than a three-day class during separation," he said.